New officials, old story in the Owens Valley


Inyo Water Director Bob Harrington

The new members of the Inyo Water Commission will face an old story – the fight to control the Department of Water and Power’s groundwater pumps in the Owens Valley. The topic remains in talks between Inyo and DWP staff.

The virtually all new Water Commission will be chaired by long-time Commissioner Teri Cawelti. They will meet again in early February. It’s unknown when they will get down to the nitty gritty of the water issue.

Water Director Bob Harrington said that staff members on both sides continue to work on water table models to determine how far down DWP can draw the water before the pumps go off. Currently, the Water Agreement contains a different and unsuccessful way of controlling pumps. It’s call the on-off method which looks at vegetation and soil moisture but not depth to water. Inyo wants to implement depth to water methods.

Harrington said staff does have “useful tools worked out.” He said Inyo County does not believe the current on-off method provides enough protection for the Valley’s environment. Staff members have looked at the water table levels of 1984 through 1987 as a time in which water table levels supported vegetation. Harrington said plans could eventually be put into place so that LA would pump down to a determined point where the computer models say that vegetation will not be damaged.

Inyo has given LADWP until next spring to come up with a trial plan to manage pumps in the Taboose-Aberdeen and Big Pine areas. DWP proposed a pumping plan for this past year which was higher than Inyo wanted. That’s when officials said that they would have to see a new way of managing pumps by next spring.

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