12/18/2001 LADWP says Drought Recovery Policy does not apply to vegetation
At the Technical Group meeting of 12/10/01 a representative of LADWP's consultant (Montgomery Watson Harza) gave a presentation explaining LADWP's interpretation of the Drought Recovery Policy (DRP). First, extensive data were presented showing that the drought of the late 1980's-early 1990's is over. This has never been in dispute.

The consultant also explained that the only criterion to be used in determining whether the DRP applies to a wellfield is whether there has been a "substantial recovery in soil moisture and water table conditions" in the wellfield. This is taken from a single sentence in the second paragraph of the DRP. The consultant explained he had determined "substantial" to mean 80% of the total drawdown during the drought. Questioning by Inyo County Water Department (ICWD) staff revealed that the consultant's decision to equate "substantial" with "80%" was arbitrary. It was based upon no ecological or environmental data at all.

The consultant then showed data suggesting that all wellfields met his definition of "substantial recovery" and that therefore the DRP no longer applies. In questioning by the public, the consultant re-iterated the fact that according to LADWP's interpretation, the only factor to be considered in determining whether the DRP applies to a wellfield is whether a "substantial" recovery in the water table has occurred, and that the condition of wellfield vegetation is irrelevant.

Had LADWP or Montgomery Watson Harza's staff taken the trouble to read the first paragraph of the DRP, they would have seen that the interpretation they proposed is simplistic and untenable. The DRP specifies that the goal is recovery of soil water in the rooting zone, and that consideration of the condition of vegetation is required:

"The goal of this policy [the Drought Recovery Policy] is that soil water within the rooting zone recover to a degree sufficient so that the vegetation protection goals of the [Inyo-LA Water] Agreement are achieved. To this end, groundwater pumping during this drought, as well as the period of recovery, will be conducted in an environmentally conservative manner, taking into consideration soil water, water table, and vegetation conditions.... Further, soil water, water tables, and vegetation conditions will be monitored by the Technical Group to ensure that the goal of this policy is being achieved...."

For the past three years ICWD has written and presented to the Technical Group detailed analyses of every parcel within every wellfield with regard to the status of soil moisture, water table, and vegetation. ICWD used these data to make a determination of whether the goals of the DRP had been met for the parcel and whether the DRP still applied. LADWP has never made any public comments on any of these reports.

ICWD's interpretation represents a good-faith attempt to consider all the factors specified in the DRP and determine whether the recovery goals are being met. LADWP's interpretation would turn the DRP into an arbitrary numbers game in which achievement of the goal of the policy is irrelevant and - just by coincidence - pumping constraints of the DRP will be removed.

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