The first step toward the Environmental Impact Report on the Owens Lake Master Project was taken Wednesday afternoon in Bishop.
The Los Angeles Department of Water and Power held a scoping meeting outlining the project elements and potential impacts of dust mitigation and habitat development on the 110-square mile dry lake. The second meeting will be held from 6-8 p.m. next Wednesday, July 22 at Statham Hall in Lone Pine.
The approximately 20 community members were acutely familiar with the 10-year project with the primary goal of reducing the amount of water required to control dust by 50 percent. Advisory groups have worked with LADWP to assure habitat values, public access and recreational opportunities are incorporated into the project.
LADWP’s Julie Wagner provided an overview of the project, including approved dust control measures and those currently being tested.
Department biologist Jeff Nordin reviewed habitat requirements for alkali meadow species and the diverse bird populations, many of which use the Owens Lake as a stop-over between South America and as far north as the Arctic, explaining what measures will be taken to meet those avian and species needs.
In addition to dust mitigation measures, the EIR will address proposed groundwater pumping from five aquifers under the lake bed to supply water for dust mitigation and habitat protection. “The work groups are developing protocols to avoid possible impacts,” said Wagner.
Comments following the presentation were brief. Bruce Warden, environmental scientist for the California Regional Water Quality Control Board, Lahontan Region, asked for involvement with the project. Warden noted the existence of arsenic in groundwater. “My goal would be to bring water that wildlife comes in contact with up to standards,” he said.
The deadline for comments is Aug. 7; the EIR is scheduled for completion by next summer with the findings published during the winter of 2016. The presentation material is available on the Inyo County website at http://www.inyocounty.us/EnvironmentalDocuments/Documents/15-021.pdf