OVGA fails to launch

By Deb Murphy

This story was supposed to describe a fairly complete picture of what the Owens Valley Groundwater Sustainability Agency was going to look like, based on the respective financial commitment and voting power of each of the 11 participating agencies.

But the group hedged.

Instead of taking the necessary step to become a GSA, it’s still the Owens Valley Groundwater Authority, governed by a Joint Powers Agreement, will little ability to do anything but talk.

At the urging of acting chair Fred Stump, those decisions were deferred to February 8 with the hope that Inyo’s Water Department would know the fate of its Department of Water Resource’s grant application covering some or part of the group’s Groundwater Sustainability Plan.

John Vallejo, Inyo’s deputy county counsel, explained the agencies could declare a financial commitment at Thursday’s meeting, then opt to change their contribution once the group was governed by its own rules and procedures. Until then, they had to stick to the JPA.

According to Inyo Water Director Bob Harrington, the county should have an idea of the status of the application in January. Deferring the decision would delay securing a consultant to develop the plan and pretty much eliminate any possibility of petitioning the DWR for a boundary adjustment. The window for those petitions opens in January but slams shut March 31.

. The November meeting of the OVGA was cancelled to give time for the respective agencies to go back to their governing boards and determine their funding levels. Under the JPA, a commitment of $22,654 for three years would fund the agency’s GSP and result in four votes on the board. Even with no funding commitment, an agency would have two votes.

The 10 agencies represented at the meeting took a vote on Stump’s motion to defer—it passed 6-4.

Before Stump’s motion, the agencies reported on their boards’ decisions:

Starlight and Keeler’s Community Service Districts would both take the two votes and make no financial contribution.

Big Pine CSD’s board chair Bryanna Vaughan said her board hadn’t decided but probably would at its December 20 meeting.

The City of Bishop, Inyo and Mono counties committed to full funding with approved money to cover those agencies with no financial commitment.

Indian Creek-Westridge and Wheeler Crest CSDs, Tri-Valley Groundwater Management District and will fund their share.

Walt Pachuki of the Eastern Sierra CSD explained his district didn’t extract groundwater. “We’ll support and participate but would prefer to be non-funding,” he said.

Bishop Mayor Joe Pecsi expressed his frustration. “We’re moving ahead. We need to get on with business. We all knew what was expected of us today.” That sentiment was echoed by Luis Elias and Terry Tye of the Indian Creek-Westridge CSD as well as Inyo Supervisor and acting vice-chair Dan Totheroh.

 

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