MCWD holds surprise special meeting

mcwdMembers of the Great Basin Air Pollution Control District Board were surprised when three Mammoth Community Water District Board members showed up at a recent APCD meeting in Alpine County and said they were holding a special meeting of their own right then and there. The Water Board members made their unhappiness clear during public comment.

The unhappiness continues to point to the fact that APCD Director Ted Schade certified Ormat geothermal’s environmental document to drill new wells in Mammoth as part of an expansion project. Schade has said that there has been no evidence of connection between deep and shallow groundwater aquifers that would lead to impacts on Mammoth’s water supply. He said he was obligated to move forward on the environmental document.

Schade has also made it clear that he will issue no new well permits to Ormat unless there is a groundwater monitoring plan in place. Mammoth officials feel this does not protect the community. Water District General Manager Pat Hayes said the District had additional information for the environmental process that was not included. Hayes said the statements in the document about impacts say that Ormat’s project is “not likely to impact Mammoth’s groundwater.” Hayes said that’s not good enough.

Water Board member Tom Cage said he and the other two board members who attended the APCD meeting, Gordon Alper and Dennis Domaiile, communicated that “what Mr. Schade had certified for the Ormat project was inadequate, lacked our comments and should have had an independent scientific report to check validity and confirm what both sides were stating.” Cage said Schade took Ormat’s word as gospel and discounted the Water District comments. A lawsuit followed.

At the Alpine County meeting, Water District officials asked the APCD board to rescind approval of Ormat’s EIR. Following the unusual appearance of Mammoth’s officials, the APCD board did ask Mr. Schade to send a letter to Ormat. That letter addresses the question of whether Ormat can proceed with its project before submitting a groundwater monitoring plan for approval by the BLM. It can not.

The letter says a BLM-approved monitoring plan must be submitted by Ormat with any new well permit applications. Manager Pat Hayes still believes that all the risk of this operation rests on Mammoth Lakes.


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9 Responses to MCWD holds surprise special meeting

  1. Desert Tortoise October 1, 2014 at 8:38 pm #

    The members of the water district are apparently not well versed in the Brown Act. A Special Meeting only means the meeting is held on a day other than a regularly scheduled meeting. There is still a legal requirement for an agenda to be made available to the public a minimum of 72 hours in advance. Without that prior notice the meeting is not legal.

    Secondly, since this happened at a scheduled meeting of another public agency, there either had to be an announced joint meeting or sequential meetings of each public agency. The members of one agency, including a quorum of that agency, can attend a meeting of another agency and comment publicly without calling a meeting of their own agency, as long as they do not conduct any business at that meeting. In fact, if the water district did conduct any business without a published agenda made available to the public, that business is null and void. It was a pretty egregious Brown Act violation on the part of the water district.

    Every member of a board of a public agency or any member of an elected body ought to know these things. Brown Act training is required of every such member.

    • Benett Kessler October 1, 2014 at 9:27 pm #

      There was an agenda. They followed the rules. BK

  2. Waterwise October 2, 2014 at 8:12 am #

    Desert Tortoise, while what you say about the Brown Act is true, I believe you missed the fact that the special meeting of the Water District was posted as required. The District posts meeting notices on their website along with other methods. The use of “surprise” is misleading. The special meeting was posted as required-no surprise there, however, it seems no one with the Great Basin Air Pollution Control District was aware of it. No Brown Act violations on the part of the Water District.
    Keep up the good work, Water District. We need to protect our water. I hope the increased attention you are drawing gets Ormat to step up and do what is right-develop a reasonable monitoring and mitigation plan. The Water District should not have to be responsible for the risk Ormat causes.

  3. MK October 2, 2014 at 9:36 am #

    The Special meeting was posted on the MCWD website prior to the GBAPCD meeting. So not a violation. Good work Patrick.

    • BishopBeans October 2, 2014 at 10:29 am #

      There was no outreach to the Great Basin Board. The courteous thing would have been for the MCWD Chairman to contact the Great Basin Chairman and notify him of MCWD’s intention of the “joint” meeting. It may have been legal, but it was not the right thing to do.

  4. MK October 2, 2014 at 1:29 pm #

    Thought I dislike playing dirty like the plague.
    Sometimes you need to fight dirty with dirty.

    You folks seem to forget that the GBAQMD promised to not approve the project without a mitigation plan. However the Director did so anyway.

    As per another post by BK there was a months old mitigation plan by Ormat that was never presented to MCWD until recently just after the litigation process started.

    Now Ormat claims that they will start with the drilling process first before starting on the plant itself ( according to Sierra Wave) Thus placing more pressure on obtaining those well permits.

    Then you have the USGS David Shelly in a comment to the LA TIMES regarding the recent swarms of earthquakes stating :
    Deep down in the earth, there is magma, but the magma is not what’s moving, Shelly said. The earthquakes are usually triggered when water and carbon dioxide above the magma move up into higher layers of the earth’s crust and into the cracks of the small faults. The increase in fluid pressure sets off the movements.”

    Then you have MCWD’s concerns that changes in pressures and temps can cause fluid movement and or out gassing thus causing water problems.

    • Benett Kessler October 2, 2014 at 2:51 pm #

      We did not say that Ormat would start with drilling before the plant. I believe permission for the construction of the plant has been granted. Well permits have not. BK

  5. MJA October 3, 2014 at 9:29 pm #

    There is a lot of talk about a monitoring plan but what good is a monitoring plan without a mitigation plan? In the event of adverse effects being detected to the ground water would shutting down the new expanded plant be part of the plan? Would Ormat ever agree to this? And if not, if they don’t agree to a mitigation plan to stop any negative effects, then isn’t a monitoring plan a moot point? =

    • Ken Warner October 4, 2014 at 10:45 am #

      Any monitoring plan can only detect a problem after the damage is done. Then what? How do you mitigate the pollution of an aquifer?

      I’m all for geothermal energy. But not if there are consequences that may damage the essential water supply. The town doesn’t get a deal on the energy generated by Ormat yet the town has to bear the risks. There should be a way to generate geothermal energy and preserve the aquifer we get our water from.

      The Long Valley Caldera is a big place with hot rocks all over the place yet Ormat seems to want to drill right under the town.

      This is another instance of corporate interests trumping community interests. Think harder.


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