Inyo Supervisors continue discussion of water issues

By Deb Murphy
The Inyo County Board of Supervisors started the water conversation focused on this run-off year plan from the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power, but ended up in the larger issue of raising the water table in the valley to reduce the still nagging decline in healthy, diverse vegetation.
Inyo Supes 4-2016
The Supervisors and Water Director Bob Harrington agreed on a series of comments to the department’s operations plan and on the fact resource planning has to be more long-term than one isolated run-off year.
Water Commission Chair Mike Prather presented the organization’s list of comments, all of which were well received by the Supervisors and will be included in the Water Department’s comments due this Friday.
– Cuts to irrigation, if any, should be matched by cuts to pumping, where appropriate
– The Five Bridges’ wells shouldn’t be turned off until the area mitigation project has reached goal.
– Water saved on the Owens Lake dust mitigation stays in the valley.
– Reduce pumping where appropriate to help the recovery of depleted aquifers.
Owens Valley tribes will petition the department for their full surface water allotments.
None of these issues are new.
In response to Supervisor Dan Totheroh’s question on pumped irrigation and mitigation water, Harrington indicated irrigation tailwater and hatchery water do make their way to the LA Aqueduct.
Prather guided the supervisors toward the concept of water banking and Supervisor Matt Kingsley ran with it.
One obvious advantage for water banking and raising the water table is the restoration of meadow grasses, dependent on high water tables. As Sally Manning pointed out at Monday’s Water Commission meeting, the currently green areas in the valley are precipitation dependent and will be gone shortly, leaving the landscape brush-filled or barren.
Water banking got mixed reviews. Supervisor Rick Pucci wanted to fix mitigation projects before LADWP started withdrawing banked water for export. Chairman Jeff Griffiths felt the valley needed something to bank.
Kingsley was in agreement on the amount of water put to in-valley uses as long as LADWP would keep the water saved on Owens Lake in the pie chart and in the valley.
He also agreed with the pumping numbers, at 75,000 acre-feet approximately 5,000 a-f more than last year’s numbers. Griffiths added the caveat that no water should be pumped for export in well fields with declining water tables.
“This process really needs long-term planning,” Harrington said. But the process is limited to the required 10-day comment period. “The timing is nuts,” said Pucci.
The next step in this on-going saga will be the Technical Group meeting, scheduled for May 6 when LADWP will respond to the County’s concerns.
Then onto the Standing Committee May 12 in Independence.

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3 Responses to Inyo Supervisors continue discussion of water issues

  1. Philip Anaya April 27, 2016 at 9:48 pm #

    A lesson on how well governemnt works, actually seeing it in person was a great experience at this BoS discussion . First there was the presentation of the DWP Operation Plan by Bob Harrington, Director of the Inyo County . Then Mike Prather the chairperson of the Water Commission made a presentation of the Commission recommendations that was hot off the press from the previous night’s Water Commission Meeting . There was public input including Nancy Masters from the OVC who spoke of appreciation for Inyo County responce and cooperative efforts. The Supes all chimed in with good discussion, ideas and direction for the Inyo County response due April 29. The pie chart for the In – Valley usage referred to in this report had the following amounts : irrigation 45,000 AF, stockwater 11,500 AF, recreation and wildlife 8,000 AF, Mitigation Projects 9,500 AF , Tribal Lands a contested 3,200 AF,The LORP 17,700 AF, Owens Lake 65,100 AF and another specific mitigation project in Big Pine 1,600AF for In-Valley Use total of 161,600 AF
    Matt Kingsley had a brillant idea to accept the DWP pumping plan as long as the Valley got the entire total of 161,600 AF . He explained that the Owens Lake figure was inflated by about 20,000 AF (from last years 47,000 AF that was actually used on the Lake) and that we could add utilize this abundance to increase the irrigation and stockwater to normal average , increase the water for mitigation projects , and most importantly increase the allocation to the tribal lands to 5,565 AF which is a required 4 AF annual per acre of Tribal Land. There would still be about 10,000 AF left which then could be used to increase the levels of the water table at some of the more stressed out well fields .
    The Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA) has a componet of water table management while the Long Term Water Agreement (LTWA) has a componet of the maintenance of the vegetation on the valley floor . The areas of the Owens Valley that are owned by the City of los Angeles and regulated by the LTWA are not directly subject to the requirements of the SGMA but an annual report from the LADWP and Inyo County will have to be submitted to the State of California Department of Water Resources and the issue of depth to water is an issue that LADWP and Inyo County can get ahead of . Just like having money in the Bank , having a healthy water table and a Valley floor that isn’t blowing away in the wind is a goal for sustainability in the Eastern Sierra. As good as our local government is working it still takes two to tango. Ah those dips and those long gliding steps.

  2. High Desert Dweller April 27, 2016 at 10:22 pm #

    Just to clarify, Wells 385 and 386 are permanently off according to the 1999 Mitigation plan agreed to by both Inyo County and DWP. The Water Commissioners and the Board of Supervisors both agreed that those wells need to stay off and not be pumped at all. In DWP’s Draft Operations Plan, DWP states that they want to do a two month test on Well 385. That is not acceptable. As was pointed out at the BOS meeting, pumping is pumping…doesn’t matter if they call if a ‘test” or put an “R” behind the well number!

  3. Daris April 28, 2016 at 7:26 am #

    All of the recommendations and points made by the Supervisors are right on and should be addressed in the approval of the Owens Valley Operations plan for runoff year 2016-2017. My money is that LA will do just what they want with the water whether surface or pumped and Inyo will roll over and let them. The long term water agreement states that LA will maintain vegetation in the valley as it was in 1981-82 end of discussion either LA adhere to this court stipulation or seek legal action to make them abide by the legal document sign by both parties. This means both Inyo County and LA are breaking the law and liable for lawsuits.


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