Arbitration panel rejects DWP claims

blackrockSince before the Long-Term Water Agreement was signed in 1991, vegetation has died in what’s called Blackrock 94.  Inyo County has tried to get the Department of Water and Power to deal with that damage done over more than 300 acres in the Blackrock area north of Independence. There, meadows are now gone and weeds have infested the partially barren area. Inyo County went to official dispute with DWP over this issue, and now an arbitration panel has rejected some of DWP’s claims and determined that “a measurable change and decrease in vegetation in the affected area has occurred.” The panel will move on to decide if DWP pumps did the damage.

In late October, the three-member panel unanimously issued a 14-page decision that rejected LADWP’s claim that the panel itself had no jurisdiction to hear the dispute. DWP had claimed Inyo County failed to follow proper procedures. The arbitration panel rejected that claim. They also rejected DWP’s contention that the Water Agreement baseline vegetation conditions are not required to be maintained and that impacts had already been mitigated.

According to a fact sheet on this issue, the panel also found that DWP had failed to engage in the dispute resolution process as required by the Water Agreement and had failed to introduce evidence to challenge the County’s claim that the impacts at Blackrock are significant and caused by DWP activities.

The arbitration decision requires LADWP to submit a report by December 18th that addresses whether DWP pumps did significant damage to vegetation. The County will have until February 14, 2014 to respond. A decision will follow. After that, either party could take the issue to Superior Court. If the Blackrock case does not go to court, the arbitration decision is binding.


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15 Responses to Arbitration panel rejects DWP claims

  1. Philip Anaya November 7, 2013 at 8:59 pm #

    This is milepost decision for the Longterm Water Agreement and the Owens Valley is wonderful news . Although it’s been a longtime coming the persistence, dedication and commitment to uphold the Water Agreement by the Inyo Board of Supervisors, the Water Dept, the County Counsel, Individuals and the Owens Valley Committee has given us a precedent and new opportunities for the future relations with the DWP. The previous Aqueduct Management that seemingly worked actively to corrupt and disrupt the functions of the Tech Group have the responsibilty for this decision and we will now see if Mr.Yannota, the current Manager, will be able to make some changes. It is time to repair the damage done at Blackrock. It is time for mitigation measures. Maybe the DWP might show some good faith and begin immediately with efforts to correct the damage. At the very least good faith would dictate that they reach out to the community,to the County and initiate discussions about those mitigation measures. Mr.Yannota from the very first has always said that “DWP would do what they are required to do” . So here’s an opportunity for DWP to do what’s right and to get on with it.

  2. Michael Prather November 8, 2013 at 8:59 am #

    For a summary of the decision and the decision itself go to:

    This decision is good news for Inyo County. More work to do, but good detailed interpretation of the Long-term Water Agreement that supports Inyo’s legal arguments.

    • Bob Harrington November 8, 2013 at 10:52 am #

      Make that:

      There is a narrative near the bottom of the page with links to the Water Department’s analysis of conditions in area in question, the arbitration panel’s findings and partial decision, and a summary fact sheet.

  3. Ben Holgate November 8, 2013 at 9:46 am #

    I hope the people who have been repeating the (incorrect) claim that Inyo is not allowed to sue under the LTWA are appropriately chaste.

    Hey, look what happens whens we work to elect responsive and responsible County Supervisors! Look what happens when they support our Water Department staff to base their work on the results of science and insist that the agreement be adhered to! Look what happens when our County Counsel insists on following the outlined process to resolution!


    Keep it up ladies and gentlemen, I will continue to support your efforts however I can.

  4. MJA November 8, 2013 at 11:09 am #

    I thought this idea is worth repeating: A ground water pumping plan based on a minimum ground water depth, a water depth that sustains or maintains the Owens Valley, is the only water agreement that will work, Much like Mono Lake and its agreement, a minimum ground water level must be implemented for the health and future of the Owens Valley. Anything else is dust in the wind. Thanks, =

    • Try again November 8, 2013 at 2:29 pm #

      Hate to break it to you, Harry, but this dispute was started a long time ago. 3 of the supervisors that initiated it are gone as of December of last year. The new guys will take the credit, though!

  5. Daris November 8, 2013 at 12:23 pm #

    This descision is based on claims in the Blackrock 94 area so my question is does this pretain to the rest of Inyo County? The long term water agreement said vegetation will be maintain as it was in 1981-82. What happen to the rest of the valley or does the county have to bring to arbitation every differest area seperatly?

    • Benett Kessler November 8, 2013 at 1:33 pm #

      Daris, I believe the County has to dispute each incident or make it clear which areas they are disputing.

    • Bob Harrington November 8, 2013 at 5:09 pm #

      Daris, if LADWP’s groundwater pumping or changes in surface water management have a significant impact, the Water Agreement requires that the impact be mitigated. To determine if a significant impact has occurred, the Technical Group has to determine that the impact is measurable, attributable to LADWP’s water management, and significant. The standards that the Technical Group uses to make such determinations are set out in section IV.B of the Water Agreement and section I.C of the Green Book (see and If the Technical Group can’t come to agreement on these matters, they are subject to dispute resolution – the process we are currently pursuing.

      The Agreement requires that the Technical Group make such determinations by a “case by case” analysis. In the present dispute, the County submitted data from a 333 acre parcel to the Technical Group for evaluation, but the Technical Group could look at larger areas or smaller areas as appropriate for other situations.

      • Philip Anaya November 9, 2013 at 7:36 am #

        Mr. Harrington ,

        Although there are folks in the Valley who do not always agree with what the direction ,decisions and the timelines of what the Inyo County Water has been doing, no one can dispute the openess and availability to that process in your Department. For instance things can always be improved and the Water Dept website is better and better. Your Department’s response to questions when we call or walk in the door, that door is always open. The fact that you take the time to post comments means that you are reading what we think and you are doing a great service to us all when you contribute information and participate in the public dialog . If more officials in postions of authority were able to do this DWP included then the process of public participation and access would be enhanced. Your job and that of your Staff is vital to the Valley environment and keeping up with the DWP, all of their Staff , all of their endless resources can not be easy . Thank You for the efforts in this decision
        PS I forgot to include thanking the Inyo Water Commission for their part in this decision.

  6. Ben Holgate November 8, 2013 at 5:04 pm #

    One thing my dad taught me was to not start a fight unless necessary and once embroiled finish it. I fully intend to.

    Dear anonymous Internet poster: I can’t see you but I can smell your quivering lower lip.

  7. Mongo The Idiot November 11, 2013 at 1:36 pm #

    If solar panels are going to obliterate large parcels of land in OV, why does it matter that Black Rock (or any) vegetation is dead?

    If half the valley people want DWP to do whatever they want for jobs and the other half want DWP controlled to save the environment, how then can there be any balance or real community?

    Since there is so much bad information floating around with no one willing to fact check, why do we even need to discuss this stuff.

    I think I am beginning to love the valley not for it’s display of nature as much as its display of human nature. Now all I have to do is find the beauty in it so I can be content in its presence.

    • Philip Anaya November 11, 2013 at 8:00 pm #

      Hey Mongo,
      We are not going let the Owens Valley be obliterated either by Industrial Scale Solar Development or excessive pumping of the Valley Floor. No one in the Valley clearly understands all of the Issues of Renewable Power Generation or the impact from excessive water mining ,pumping and export, not even the DWP. What we do understand is the beauty and the vastness of our view sheds and the delicate balance of the cycle of life that water affords in our somewhat harsh high desert environment.
      Everyone in the DWP who works in this Valley is here because they love this magical place. These folks have to wait and work In LA for half of their careers to finally achieve the dream of being at home in the Deepest Valley.
      These and others who don’t get that job or that of Cal Trans , Inyo Forest, BLM, So Cal Edison etc., all those who have brilliant education, skill sets and successful careers elsewhere who come for one visit, one experience of maybe hiking ,climbing ,fishing ,skiing ,the Bristlecone, the Range of Light, the birds, the clouds, the sky, hunters, adventurers ,explorers, hanggliders, Mule lovers, packers and Marchers (you marchers are really something, but your mules are the ones you love best , car buffs , motor and bicyclists , fruit cake fans, walkers, joggers. students, scientists exploring the composition of things seemingly invisible, to the vastness of the Universe, health care amateurs and professionals , babies, toddlers, children ,adolescents, teenagers, young adults, who are born ,raised or dragged here, some right in the middle of High School, people of all ages and description they come and then dwell here, a chosen few of the many who yearn to be here.
      We all love this Owens Valley as we find it, love it even more as we find new places and come to know the people. You are correct Mongo It’s beauty in all the right places. The DWP Solar Raunch an over the top human scale idea in the wrong place. Maybe a bit of it ,smaller renewable projects 1 to 5 acres would leave room for dreamers like you and I escaping from the fast and furious LA to still recognize this place from even past lives into the endless future. The vegetation for that recognition needs to Mary Decker certified, no substitutions or additives. The Water Agreement needs to be fortified to Stan Matlick approval rating. When we finally get to that place there might be a lot of folks saying “heaven can wait.” That’s worth fighting for.

      • Mongo The Idiot November 11, 2013 at 10:09 pm #

        Mr Phillip,
        I spoke to a DWP employee who told me he had to take a job in Independence as an entry level position because there were no positions in LA. Were they joshing me? I met another DWPer who owns a home in CC Nevada and claims to live there; he said he wants to retire and get out.
        Are you sure about this statement? “Everyone in the DWP who works in this Valley is here because they love this magical place.”

        Also, I am meeting a higher percentage of women with breast cancer in the valley than I do in LA-LA land. It could be a coincidence, my sample is way too small. I’ll admit, almost no one in LA will talk to me so I may meet lots of sick people who aren’t talking about it.

        As for the spectacular appearance and special protective ecological features of the area that have preserved some very rare and unusual natural history; well, even an idiot could see that. Every time I go to the valley I see something phenomenal that I haven’t seen before. I’ve got to get over it and start stopping to take pictures.

  8. Mongo The Idiot November 11, 2013 at 2:04 pm #

    How can anyone who is benefiting from any form of exploitation be expected to tell the truth?


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