Letter to the editor: OVC concerns with Blackrock 94


blackrockInyo County Board of Supervisors PO BoxN Independence, CA 93526

Dear Supervisors:

We have read the proposed settlement agreement for the Blackrock 94 Dispute Resolution case and are relieved that several of the worst portions in the draft released at the Board meeting of April 15, 2014 have been removed. We have several questions and comments we hope you will consider before deciding whether to approve this proposed settlement.

1) The settlement lacks a goal. We suggest the settlement’s goal be recovery of groundwater to an average depth of 2 meters at the western edge of Blackrock 94 by 2019.

2) Item II. in the settlement states that pumping from wells 351 and 356 will not exceed ~8000 acre feet/year. However, the exemption of these wells from the On/Off protocol would be unchanged. The settlement should specify if the ceiling on pumping will last in perpetuity or if it will end at any particular time or if any particular criteria were met. What measures would be available to the county to enforce the 8000 af/yr ceiling if DWP were to violate it next year?

3) Off-site burning (Item I.) has no apparent relation to the Blackrock 94 dispute. Why is item I. in the settlement?

4) What portion of the settlement triggers the need to go through CEQA? In the past, when DWP has changed pumping volumes it has not gone through CEQA.

5) Will Inyo pay any portion of the costs of the facilitated discussions regarding vegetation monitoring and, if so, how much will Inyo pay?

6) Please recall that DWP and Inyo County Water Department staff have engaged in “facilitated processes” at least two times in the past 11 years: 1) the “Mutual Gains” negotiations in 2003- 2004 and the 2007 Green Book revision meetings, initially facilitated by Wes Danskin. Both these efforts failed to produce acceptable outcomes and both were closed to public scrutiny. Is there any reason to believe the proposed “facilitated process” called for in item III. will be more successful than its predecessors? We believe any discussions regarding vegetation monitoring should be open to public observation.

7) Reaching agreement with DWP on technical protocols for vegetation monitoring (the goal of item III.) presupposes a shared policy interpretation regarding the appropriate spatial scale of vegetation management to meet the goals of the Inyo-LA Long Term Water Agreement. Unfortunately, the shared policy interpretation does not exist. In its annual reports DWP evaluates conditions on a very coarse spatial scale by averaging data from multiple parcels; the Water department evaluates conditions on a finer spatial scale by analyzing individual parcels separately; the EIR to the Water Agreement calls for an even finer scale of management by recognizing riparian areas, stands of willows and cottonwoods, and rare plant populations as vegetation of significant environmental value” which should be monitored. If the Board approves the proposed settlement will the Board be delegating its responsibility for policy interpretation to DWP and the Ecological Society of America? If not, how and when does the Board intend to resolve the fundamental policy disagreement with DWP regarding the appropriate spatial scale for vegetation management?

Thank you for considering our comments.

Sincerely, Daniel Pritchett

Vice President, Owens Valley Committee



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