When the Inyo Supervisors sat down to talk about the Department of Water and Power’s proposed groundwater pumping plan for this runoff year, Supervisor Rick Pucci, clearly disturbed, brought up the privately discussed issue of the Bishop and Lone Pine golf courses pushed by DWP to pay for their water. He pointed to the Bishop Saddle Club apparently losing its DWP water. Pucci said, “DWP needs to be more cooperative”.
As he and three other board members faced the DWP pumping plan, Supervisor Pucci said, “The golf courses are the entrances to our communities. They are in every brochure DWP puts out. The Chamber of Commerce uses them.” Pucci said he has received calls from entities, presumably the golf course, which, he said, report that they will have to close down if DWP pushes its water charges.
Golf Course officials admit DWP said they may look at charging for water in the current negotiations on new leases. Water for both golf courses has always been included in their leases. The golf courses have lost members in the past few years and maintain marginal finances.
With all of that in mind, Supervisors heard from former Inyo Water Department plant expert and current Big Pine Tribal Environmental Director Sally Manning. She said DWP is ignoring the water tables and vegetation goals. Manning said DWP has “systematically cut connections in valley water uses.” She said DWP has replaced stream water for Valley uses with pumped water. Manning said, “The pumping is happening faster than the Valley is being recharged.” She said the Owens Valley “has not recovered from the heavy DWP pumping of the mid-80s.” The current discussions also do not consider the heavy pumping in the 70s. Manning said ranching and other areas are “eroding before our eyes. It’s time to listen to the people. I’m calling on the County’s leadership.”
Rancher Daris Moxley said DWP has cut half her water and told her she still has to irrigate all 99 acres. She pointed to a DWP letter which says they will cut 20% of the irrigation in Laws and Independence and 10% elsewhere.
Supervisor Jeff Griffiths said, “Where will it be unacceptable for the water table to go down? Some of these drops (predicted in the pumping plan) are alarming. Plants will not recover.” He said he has concerns about the former Drought Recovery Policy that DWP unilaterally ended. He pointed to the need for a recovered and stable water table. Griffiths said, “Where’s the point when we say don’t pump any more?” Water Director Bob Harrington said Dispute Resolution is always on the table every year. Griffiths pushed for and got the County to go for a much lower pumping rate in the heavily impacted Big Pine well fields.
Supervisor Linda Arcularius said Supervisor Pucci’s comments about needing cooperation on things like water for golf courses were “extremely important.” She supported language in the County’s letter to DWP on the pumping plan that points to cooperation and mutual concerns for the community.”
In the official response to DWP’s pumping plans, Water Director Harrington recommended a range of 46,825 to 49,585 acre feet for April through September. Because it’s a second drought year, the next six months’ pumping will be determined later. DWP’s pumping range is higher at 47,370 to 54,660 acre feet. Harrington said the whole year is expected to be in the low to high 70,000 acre feet range.
The Supervisors will discuss the separate DWP letter to cut irrigation even more at a meeting before the May 20th Standing Committee meeting. It is unclear to officials what DWP means by cuts in irrigation – is it ranches? golf courses? saddle club? parks? No one in Inyo County seems to know.