7/6/2011 Inyo County challenges Los Angeles groundwater pumping plan
(Excerpted from a County of Inyo Press release)

The County of Inyo has initiated legal action requesting that the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power reduce the amount of groundwater LADWP plans to pump from the Owens Valley during the next 12 months.

Under the terms of the 1991 Long-Term Water Agreement between the County and Los Angeles, LADWP produces an annual Owens Valley operations and pumping plan. The County initiated the legal action under the Agreement by providing written notice to Los Angeles of a challenge to the amount of groundwater pumping included in the plan.

LADWP’s planned pumping of 91,000 acre-feet of groundwater from the valley is the highest level of groundwater pumping by LADWP since 1989. By reducing the amount of groundwater pumping planned by less than ten percent, the City of Los Angeles could avoid a potentially costly legal battle with Inyo County.

The Chairperson of the Inyo County Board of Supervisors, Susan Cash, notes that this year’s high snowpack and runoff in the Eastern Sierra can be used to both help repair environmental damage from drought and previous pumping and still supply the City of Los Angeles with about 70 percent of its drinking water needs. With the expected runoff this year at 150 percent of normal, even with the County’s proposed reduction LADWP would still export about 380,000 acre-feet of water from the Eastern Sierra via the Los Angeles Aqueduct.

In February 2011 the Inyo County Water Department released an analysis showing significant negative impacts to vegetation in an area located a few miles north of Independence. The impacts resulted from groundwater pumping and surface water management activities of Los Angeles. The County’s challenge seeks to reduce groundwater pumping that affects this area. Reducing planned pumping would raise the water table under the impacted area, which should avoid further decreases and changes in vegetation and promote vegetation recovery.

“While we are confident our scientific analysis of these well fields is credible and pumping in them should be reduced on the available scientific evidence,” Cash said, “the larger question is whether the leaders in Los Angeles will be willing to work with Inyo County cooperatively on this fairly simple issue.”

The County is asking the Inyo/Los Angeles Technical Group to reduce groundwater pumping from 17,200 to 12,800 acre-feet in the Thibaut-Sawmill wellfield and from 14,000 to 10,000 acre-feet in the Taboose-Aberdeen wellfield in order to allow affected vegetation to recover in the vicinity of the Blackrock Fish Hatchery. The County is not seeking to reduce any groundwater pumping that supplies the fish hatchery.

When the County had the opportunity to comment on the proposed groundwater pumping plan, it recommended reducing overall pumping from the Owens Valley from 91,000 to 68,510 acre-feet. Despite the County’s comments, LADWP set the pumping amount at 91,000 acre-feet. The County’s current challenge focuses on the area of impacted vegetation and would reduce pumping levels in the Owens Valley by 8,400 acre-feet, from 91,000 to 82,600 acre-feet.

The Board of Supervisors expressed the intention to continue to pursue a positive working relationship with the City of Los Angeles but, in the interest of the people of Inyo County, chose this time to exercise the County’s rights under the Long-Term Water Agreement to protect the environment of the valley. Should the Technical Group be unable to resolve the dispute, the matter will proceed to the Inyo County/Los Angeles Standing Committee, a body composed of elected and appointed officials from the County and Los Angeles. If the Standing Committee does not resolve the dispute, the dispute will be resolved through mediation/arbitration or by the Superior Court.
Contacts:  Kevin Carunchio or Bob Harrington phone 760-878-0292 or 760-878-0001 Phone: