News

12/4/2001 Supervisors hear concerns about conflicts between Water Agreement and Proposed General Plan
Dear Members of the Board;

The Owens Valley Committee and Sierra Club urges the Inyo County
Board of Supervisors to stand firm in seeing that the commitments in
the Long Term Water Agreement, the 1991 EIR, and the 1997 MOU are
fulfilled. We are especially concerned that the Board ensures that
all of the mitigation measures, including maintenance of Type E
vegetation, be implemented as promised in the Agreement and EIR.
These measures, which provide valuable environmental and economic
benefits to the Owens Valley, are binding commitments on the Los
Angeles Department of Water and Power and Inyo County. The
California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) requires that identified
mitigation measures be implemented. The mitigation measures in the
EIR, along with all of the other provisions of the Agreement and EIR,
received extensive scrutiny by the public and the Board before being
formally approved by the Board.

At issue today is the Board's consideration of the County General
Plan Update which at this time includes six sites where
enhancement/mitigation (E/M) project areas, designated as mitigation
measures in the Water Agreement and EIR, are designated in the
proposed general plan for land uses other than mitigation and more
than a dozen sites where Type E vegetation areas are designated for
residential, commercial, industrial, or public service facility uses
(Attachment 1). We strongly urge the Board to make a clear statement
at this time that the land use designations for these mitigation and
Type E vegetation areas must be consistent with their intended uses
as set forth in the Water Agreement and EIR. Residential,
commercial, industrial, or public service facility uses are not
consistent with these intended uses. We strongly believe it is
premature to base General Plan land use designations on Land & Water
Advisory Committee recommendations where those recommendations are
not consistent with the intended use of E/M project areas as set
forth in the Water Agreement and EIR. The General Plan should
reflect the current required use for those lands.

Every word and action by the Board, including the county's General
Plan Update, should send a clear message to LADWP and the citizens of
Inyo County that the Board has every intention of seeing that the
mitigation measures and all the other commitments in the Water
Agreement come to pass. It is now four and a half years since the
Water Agreement and EIR have taken effect and none of the new (i.e.
previously unimplemented) E/M projects or other EIR mitigations that
are for damage to or loss of vegetation and wildlife habitats have
been implemented. It is time for the Board to insist that those
projects and mitigations move forward quickly.

There are basically two areas where Land & Water Advisory Committees
have recommended LADWP land divestment and residential use within E/M
project areas. These are in the Independence East Side Regreening
and Big Pine Northeast Regreening projects. We do not believe that
the Committees have shown a compelling need for siting these
divestment areas within E/M project areas, they have not shown that
the same residential uses could not occur elsewhere. There is far
more LADWP land available for release and development than there is
in mitigation, and conflict within the communities can be avoided if
lands selected for development are not mitigation lands. As set
forth in the Water Agreement and EIR, if the County wants to modify
these two E/M projects it must get the agreement of the Standing
Committee, it must be in full compliance with CEQA, and the Standing
Committee must make certain findings. Because these E/M projects
provide on-site mitigation of loss of vegetation and wildlife
habitats due to groundwater pumping that have been identified as
significant impacts, we believe that converting a portion of the
mitigation areas to residential use will have a significant adverse
affect and will require that an EIR be prepared to comply with CEQA.
In order to make the modification to the E/M project we believe the
Standing Committee must then make a finding that a new mitigation
measure will be implemented which will reduce the identified adverse
effect of the modification to a level which is less than significant.
Surely, though, this path is not in the County's best interest. The
E/M projects were decided upon in a public process and agreed to by
the County and LADWP. A deal is a deal.

Therefore, the Owens Valley Committee and Sierra Club requests the following:

1. That the Board direct Planning Department and Water Department
staff to ensure that the designated uses in the new Inyo County
General Plan accurately and consistently reflect all existing and
planned mitigation measures and Type E vegetation, as called for in
the Water Agreement and EIR. The appropriate designations for these
lands are agriculture, open space, or natural resources. To do
anything less is to send an official signal to LADWP that the Board
is wavering in its commitment to make these projects come to pass.
Setting such a precedent puts at risk every hard-won mitigation
measure and every environmental protection in the agreement, EIR, and
MOU that was promised to the citizens of Inyo County.

2. That the Board direct staff to report to the Board on the status
of all E/M projects, EIR mitigation measures, and Type E lands in the
Owens Valley and that the Board ensure that each E/M project,
mitigation measure and area of Type E vegetation is being maintained
as described in the Water Agreement and EIR.

The E/M projects, mitigation measures and Type E vegetation lands
contained in the agreement and EIR are legally binding commitments on
LADWP and Inyo County to mitigate impacts caused by DWP's water
exports and to provide permanent benefits to the environment. These
projects, which were promised to the citizens of Inyo County many
years ago, were a large part of the reason many residents supported
the approval of the Water Agreement. The County's citizens now look
to the Board to stand firm in making these promises reality. We hope
the Board will favorably consider and adopt the views expressed in
this letter.

Sincerely,
original signed by Mark Bagley
Mark Bagley
Sierra Club

original signed by Mike Prather
Mike Prather
Owens Valley Committee

Contacts:   Phone: