Technical Group sets stage for Standing Committee meeting; plus Inyo Supervisors news

By Deb Murphy

Inyo County representatives on the Technical Group held their ground on issues to be decided at this Thursday’s Standing Committee meeting: No test pumping on wells at Five Bridges until the mitigation reaches sustainable goals; the County still wants to see a California Environmental Quality Act analysis before new wells can be drilled in West Bishop and Los Angeles Department of Water and Power’s plan for reasonable reduction in irrigation and enhancement/mitigation projects will not be supported by Inyo County.

The first two aren’t news. The third has been discussed for the last three months, but at Friday’s Tech Group that reasonable reduction plan made its debut.

The plan, modeled after indexes developed for the San Joaquin and Sacramento valleys, identifies year types, either below normal with runoff at 81- to 100-percent of normal; dry, at 62- to 81-percent or critical dry, 0 to 62-percent. Runoff estimates for the 2016-17 year have been set at 71-percent, an improvement over last year’s estimate of 47-percent. However, spring rains bumped last year’s number up to the low 60-percent range.

Once the year type is determined, reduction is based on the number of consecutive dry years. Dry year types get cut 20-percent in the second year, 25-percent in the third and 30-percent for four or more years of drought. All that being said, the LADWP plan would drop both irrigation water and enhancement/mitigation projects by 30-percent.

The plan will go to the Standing Committee without support from Inyo County.
“There are a number of issues with the program,” said County Water Department Director Bob Harrington. “Look at the percentages. This would have a drastic negative impact on lessees.”

Harrington pointed out that a permanent program would not allow for the alterations in exports, pumping or well on/off status. His preference would be to do an evaluation year-by-year, starting the process earlier in the year, looking at all options.

Depending on whether one looked at the 45,000 acre-feet of water available for irrigation this year, or the 1981 baseline of 46,680 a-f, valley ranchers would receive 31,500 a-f or 32,676 a-f. Last year, ranchers’ allotment was 39,600 a-f—roughly a 15-percent reduction from baseline.

But wait, there’s more. The program for reasonable reduction requires the agreement between Los Angeles and Inyo County Standing Committee members. Without that agreement, “Los Angeles has to meet the obligations” set out in the Long Term Water Agreement Water Department’s Aaron Steinwand reminded the Tech Group.

Presumably, that would give ranchers the 45,000 a-f identified as the maximum available considering low surface water availability in some areas of the valley.

The County is holding its second annual “Talking Water Workshop” in the Supervisors’ chambers Tuesday at 1:30 p.m. The Standing Committee is scheduled to meet Thursday, May 12 in the County Board chambers at 1 p.m.

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‘Talking Water Workshops’

Press release

THE BOARD OF SUPERVISORS is resurrecting the “Talking Water
Workshops” held last year to discuss water availability in the Owens Valley.
The workshop will be held at 1:30 p.m. during the Board’s regularly scheduled
meeting, next Tuesday, May 10, 2016, in Independence.

Last year’s workshops were held in light of the severity of drought
conditions and the dire shortfall in water for in-valley uses proposed in
LADWP’s 2015-2016 Proposed Annual Operations Plan.

Although this year’s run-off forecast is markedly better than last year, it is still projected to be 71% of ‘normal.’ Additionally, in its 2016-2017 Proposed Annual Operations Plan, the City of Los Angeles Department and Water and Power included a footnote that, although it plans to provide 45,000 acre-feet of water for Owens Valley
irrigation purposes, “LADWP intends to pursue a [further] reduction in irrigation
pursuant to the terms of the Long Term Water Agreement . . .”

This follows LADWP seeking to have the Inyo-Los Angeles Standing
Committee pre-approve undefined reductions in irrigation at Standing
Committee meetings on February 8th. It also follows the March 31st Standing
Committee direction that the Technical Group meet “to develop a program, or
programs, providing for reasonable reductions in irrigation Water Supply of Los
Angeles-owned lands in Owens Valley and for enhancement/mitigation
projects, and to submit the programs for consideration and possible approval
by the Inyo County Board of Supervisors and the Department acting through
the Standing Committee.”

Despite LADWP’s call for undefined reductions to irrigation and other projects identified in the Long Term Water Agreement, and the Standing Committee’s direction to the Tech Group, the LADWP has yet to provide the County or the community with any written proposal to evaluate.

In anticipation that – despite, to date, the lack of a written plan being
shared with the County, considered by the Technical Group, or available for
public review – LADWP will again place this issue on the agenda for the
Standing Committee scheduled on May 12, 2016, in Inyo County, the Board of
Supervisors is being proactive and seeking input from all segments of the
community concerning Owens Valley water availability and use.

The workshop is scheduled for May 10, 2016, at 1:30 p.m., in the Board
of Supervisors Room, at the County Administrative Center in Independence.
Following the workshop, the Board will consider the draft agenda for the May
12th Standing Committee agenda and provide direction to the County’s
Standing Committee representatives.

The Board encourages those who are interested in learning about and
providing information concerning the impacts and mitigation of reduced water
availability in Inyo County to attend the workshop and share with the Board
your comments and ideas.

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By Deb Murphy

The Board of Supervisors continued with a “wait and see” strategy on Property Assessed Clean Energy programs for Inyo County residents.

Both Auditor Amy Sheperd and Tax Collector Alisha McMurtrie advised to hold off until legislative fixes are in place to resolve some of the issues. The program allows homeowners to take advantage of energy and water conservation systems with the cost attached to their property taxes.

Issues raised by Sheperd and McMurtrie included difficulty in selling the home after the improvements are in place because the lien on those improvements has to be paid off before the mortgage company.

In addition, the program is not available for mobile homes or businesses on leased lands. According to McMurtrie, 40-percent of the homes in the county are mobiles and many of the businesses are on Los Angeles Department of Water and Power leases.

“I support the concept,” said McMurtrie, “but the legal issues need to be addressed.”

Representatives from HERO, the PACE program recently approved for a Joint Powers Authority with the city of Bishop, explained that the homeowner can subordinate the PACE lien for a refinance or sale.

With Bishop already involved, the County has the opportunity to look at the data and gauge the interest in Bishop and see what impact the program has on staff before deciding if the program will work for Inyo.

Senior Planner Cathreen Richards presented the results of the initial work on specific plans for Tecopa, Shoshone and Charleston View. Specific plans focus on area to fully understanding land use issues including existing conditions and define the communities’ vision and goals.

The Planning Department has already conducted workshops in Charleston View and Tecopa with good turn out. The former is unique in that there is a “large swathe” of privately held land with long-term plans for 50,000 housing units.

Public Works Director Clint Quilter reported that the State Water Resources Control Board has extended drought restricts through October.

 

 

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