Tech Group: Take 3, on the road to dispute resolution

By Deb Murphy

The third Technical Group meeting in as many weeks and the second dealing with the issue of Five Bridges and a test of Well 385 got off to a rough start Monday.

During the initial public comment period, Bishop resident Philip Anaya chastised the group for a dual caucus at last Monday’s meeting. The Los Angeles Department of Water and Power had asked for a caucus then asked Inyo County Water Department staff to join in the discussion. Anaya strongly suggested negotiations between the two entities should have been held in public.

With only the Five Bridges mitigation status on the agenda, LADWP chose wording from the 1999 Mitigation Plan in its motion that the area’s mitigation had met goals. The exact wording: Restore the area to a complex of vegetation communities with similar species composition and cover as exists at local similar sites. The goal will be attained when the desired vegetation conditions are achieved and are sustainable.

The major issue with LADWP’s evaluation of the area last week was the size of the mitigation area. Dave Martin averaged in a 60-acre impact area with the initial 300-acre area. Inyo’s response only looked at the 60-acres and was accused of “cherry-picking” the worst parcels. Ironically, the report quoted in the department’s motion identified the mitigation area as the 60-acres Inyo’s analysis focused on.

Predictably, LADWP voted yes on the motion, Inyo, no. Aqueduct Manager Jim Yannotta asked for a caucus. The caucus lasted a good 30-minutes.

Water Department Director Bob Harrington made his motion, alluding to the same wording used in LADWP’s motion but adding the second paragraph from the 1999 Plan that more fully defined the goals: Live cover and composition numbers are from on-site mapping during the 1984-87 vegetation inventory. For Alkali Meadows, live cover goals are 60% composed of four different perennial species. Riparian Scrub live cover goals are 90% composed of four different perennial species. Composition numbers are 75% of the previously mapped number of species.

LADWP voted no, Inyo, yes.

Now the issue will go before the April 9 meeting of the Standing Committee with, undoubtedly, the same impasse.

This weird Tech Group dance is leading up to a dispute resolution requested by the department in late February. The department’s February 27 notification letter insists mitigation goals outlined in the revegetation plan have been met and goes on to question whether that 1999 Plan was “ever an operative plan.” LADWP initially requested resolution of the pesky question of whether Inyo County staff “jointly developed a monitoring program” for Well 385.

On March 20, Inyo responded with a three-page list of related questions that will need to be resolved.

The solution to these impasses is a mediation/arbitration process. Each entity chooses a representative to sit on a panel; those two choose a third member. The panel begins the process of meeting and going through all the documents.

The most recent mediation on pumping impacts at Blackrock 94, started the process in May 2012. It was resolved in April 2014.

 

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