Mammoth Community Water District calls it “petty harassment” by the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power – an attempt to block the Water District’s Forest Service permits for water storage tanks, water and sewer lines and pump stations which have been located where they are now for decades.
The Water District has been at work on a renewal of the Forest permits and agreed to consolidate all of them into one permit. Water District Manager Greg Norby said LADWP’s attorneys sent the Forest Service a letter under public comment to complain that the proposed permit does not include enough detail and to question the Forest Service’s preliminary decision that no environment assessment needs to be prepared.
Manager Norby said the LADWP letter does not mention water rights, the subject of lawsuits by LA against Mammoth. Norby said the facilities on Forest land are not new. He said, “These are standard items that have been in the ground, serving the community for years.” Why does LA care all of a sudden? Norby said the Water District views the letter from LADWP attorney Stuart Somach’s office to the Forest Service as “petty harassment by LADWP, but not surprising,” said Norby.
The DWP letter said there is not enough detail in the Forest Service Draft Decision Memo on the Water District’s permit renewal. The letter says without detail, this calls into question the Forest proposal not to require an environmental assessment. LA wants the Forest Service to issue a “supplemental notice and decision memorandum which fully describes the changes between the expired permits and the proposed new master permit.” Without these and other things, DWP says they and the public can’t provide meaningful input.
Norby said that the issuance of the use permits is normally done under a NEPA categorical exclusion because, he said, “The action is a standard one whose potential for environmental impacts has already been found minimal to zero.” Norby said there is no environmental review required once a federal discretionary action has been found to be suitably reviewed under what’s called a categorical exemption approach.
Norby repeated that the facilities in question have been located on Forest Service administered lands for decades. The only difference, he said, is that the many permits will be consolidated into one and may be under a 20-year term. The Operations and Maintenance plan submitted by the District spells out weekly visits to tank sites, periodic inspections and other matters.
Is it harassment by LADWP, currently poised to sit down in two days of negotiations over their attack on Mammoth’s water rights? The Water District thinks so. We emailed LADWP Public Relations Director Joe Ramallo for his response to this comment. At news time, we had not heard back.