By Deb Murphy
The issue of incomplete mitigation projects has reached critical mass with the Owens Valley Committee and Sierra Club.
The two organizations have asked for a dispute resolution meeting of the partners in the 1997 Memorandum of Understanding, setting a March 15 date. The request follows protocol set up by the MOU when any of the parties feels obligations are not being met. The other partners in the memorandum are Los Angeles Department of Water and Power, California State Lands Commission, Carla Scheidlinger, California Department of Fish and Wildlife and Inyo County.
The correspondence paints an “either/or” scenario. Either LADWP failed “to discharge its obligations regarding mitigation plans and implementation schedules set forth in the 1991 Environmental Impact Report and the 1999 Revegetation Plan;” or LADWP failed “to comply with the MOU’s requirement that the Technical Group prepare mitigation plans and implementation schedules within 12 months of the discharge of the writ.”
The disagreement stems from LADWP’s assertion that the Tech Group never formally adopted the 1999 Revegetation Plan which calls for a permanent shut down of the two wells in the Five Bridges area, 385 and 386. Both wells ran in the late 1980s to dewater a gravel pit and send water to the aqueduct. The pumping “caused the significant vegetation die off at Five Bridges,” the letter states. The wells were shut down, then appeared on a list of new and modified wells last year.
LADWP modified 385 and 386 to pull from deep aquifers and reclassified them as new wells which triggers environmental analysis.
The letter notes the February 1 Technical Group meeting as well as LADWP’s 2016 Five Bridges Mitigation Plan Draft. LADWP maintains at both the meeting and in the draft plan that the Technical Group never approved the 1999 document. Inyo County Water Department Director Bob Harrington did not agree with the statement.
Approval of that 1999 plan would mean approval of permanently shutting down wells 385 and 386.
LADWP Aqueduct Manager Jim Yannotta short statement: “LADWP has received a letter signed by the OVC and Sierra Club requesting to invoke Dispute Resolution on the 1997 MOU. We are addressing the issue as laid out in this process.”