Since 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.