The Owens Valley all over again? That's what opponents to a groundwater pumping plan in Rose Valley say. Coso Geothermal officials want to pump water and transport it to the geothermal plant which has begun to run out of water. Are the impacts worth it?
Inyo Water Director Bob Harrington reported to the Water Commission a Water Department recommendation to approve a Conditional Use Permit for Coso, with monitoring and mitigation requirements. Harrington said that the project will not "unreasonably affect the environment of Inyo County."
At this week's meeting, no one mentioned the underlying factor in the whole issue – Coso Geothermal paid Inyo County $11,820,700 in taxes last year. With big tax dollars on the line, county officials may want to do everything possible to accommodate Coso.
The Water Commission heard that Coso wants to pump some 4800 acre feet of water per year and transport it to the Coso Plant further south. Some Commissioners noted that only about 4800 acre feet of water enters the Rose Valley area every year. Pumping 4800 acre feet, most felt, was way too much.
Commissioners heard concerns from a rancher in the area and from representatives of the Little Lake Ranch who fear that the pumping plan will completely dry up Little Lake.
Dick Aruda, General Manager of Coso, said the project is "essential to the Coso operations." He claims there will be no detrimental effects to Rose Valley.
Andy Zdon, on behalf of Little Lake Ranch, recommended pumping of 750 acre feet instead of 4800.
Commission Chair Rex Allen said he sees the proposal as "a request by Coso to take over Rose Valley. They will pump all the water and kill the valley."
All Commissioners seemed reluctant to back the project as proposed, so they voted to delay their decision until next week. Their recommendation goes to the Planning Commission for a decision.