Report from LADWP/Inyo County Standing Committee meeting

Inyo County has passed up few opportunities to strongly suggest Los Angeles Department of Water and Power keep some of the savings from the water reductions on Owens Lake right here in the valley.

LADWP headquarters

LADWP headquarters

The discussion started and stopped at Monday’s LADWP/Inyo County Standing Committee meeting held in Los Angeles.

Acting Chair Felipe Fuentes started the discussion with the statement that the topic was “not germane to this group” which focuses on the Long Term Water Agreement. “This is not the venue for that discussion.”

LADWP Commissioner Christina Noonan elaborated: “The Commission was advised this was a legal issue.” She went on to say LADWP was willing to invest in improved irrigation methods, but had been met with resistance, referring to the valley’s “glorious farmers” she had befriended.

Reducing water uses in the valley by cutting water required for irrigation was not exactly germane to the agenda item.

Inyo County Supervisor Matt Kingsley responded, asking “what is the proper forum? This is an issue for our constituents. Mayor Garcetti said you could ‘save water to help the Owens Valley.’ The land we’re asking to use water on is your land.”

The closest Los Angeles representatives came to addressing the topic was Fuentes suggestion that staff “get together. (Inyo’s) perspective on wells shouldn’t dissuade us from having discussions.”

Water diversions for valley uses are expected to be 133,389 acre-feet, according to the department’s Operations Plan for the current run-off year (April 1, 2015 to March 30, 2016), another agenda item. Los Angeles will receive a drizzle, 21,754 a-f in this fourth year of historic drought with run-off at 29- and 36-percent in Mono and Owens River basins respectively.

The pumping totals for the last six months of the run-off year will range between 19,942 and 34,552 a-f, according to the department’s plan. The wide range will provide more flexibility, according to LADWP staff, flexibility to move water around depending on whether the winter of 2015-16 will be the fifth drought year or the much-hyped Godzilla El Nino.

Other germane agenda items included:

LADWP saved 9,800 a-f of water with early ramp-downs on Owens Lake dust mitigation requirements in the spring and late ramp-up in August. The department was granted a variance for the late ramp-up by the Great Basin Unified Air Pollution Control District in late July. The variance went into effect in August after approval by the State Lands Commission and discussions on habitat requirements with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife.

Marty Adams, LADWP’s senior assistant manager for water systems warned that the savings may not be repeatable with dust conditions different in wet and dry years. Counter-intuitively, wet years produce more dust on the dry lake. “Now we have enough history,” he said. “It will be easier to plan.”

The draft Environmental Impact Report on the Owens Lake Master Project should be available in the second half of 2016.

Inyo County and LADWP are inching toward a mutually-agreeable vegetation monitoring protocol. Ecological Society of America was brought in as a third-party following the entities agreement on Blackrock 94 in 2014.

Facilitator Susan Carpenter reported that the scientists brought in to develop monitoring protocols are finishing their draft recommendations, due Nov.4. “They seem to be on the right track,” she said.

Comments on the draft are due Nov. 23 with the final recommendation completed by December 11 and the new monitoring procedures in effect by the summer of 2016. LADWP and county staff are already jointly monitoring vegetation, Carpenter reported.


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