By Deb Murphy
The fully constituted 11-member board of the Owens Valley Groundwater Authority sort of looks like the early days of a marriage—an arranged marriage in which the partners really don’t know each other or what to expect from the relationship.
The Authority held its fifth meeting last Thursday. It took the first four before the members were comfortable committing to funding levels and the corresponding voting power. Now the OVGA has to establish itself as the sole agency for the Owens Valley groundwater basin, at least that part not under land owned by the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power, hire a plan consultant, bring in two levels of participants—identified as associates and interested parties and figure out a process to reimburse members as the state grant funding becomes available.
In other words, this marriage isn’t going to get any simpler in the near future.
Here are the highlights of Thursday’s meeting:
Inyo County’s Water Department and legal staff will continue to provide services to the Authority, but now that work will be billable to the OVGA. The estimated cost of those services were embedded into the approved budget, but members wanted to see a breakdown of the rates at the next meeting.
In order to establish itself as the agency developing a plan for the basin, the OVGA has to hold a public hearing, then file as the sole agency. At the same time Inyo and Mono counties, Bishop and Tri-Valley Groundwater Management District have to rescind their individual applications as GSAs. OVGA’s public hearing is tentatively set for May, in time to meet the June 30 deadline.
Water Department staff has already begun putting together the request for proposals, step one in the process of hiring a plan consultant. After 40 minutes of discussion, Bishop rep, Joe Pecsi, suggested sending the draft to members and interested parties for comment.
The OVGA now begins bringing in associates and interested parties through an application process. To participate as an associate, entities have to commit to implement the plan within their jurisdiction. The breakdown is as follows: four Tribes with two votes each; federal agencies with a total of two votes, LADWP would get four votes and three mutual water companies can participate with two votes each. Interested parties include agriculture, environmental groups and domestic well owners. Four will be selected with one vote each. The voting structures was determined to ensure the 11-member board of eligible agencies maintain 70-percent of the voting power.
The meeting had to be adjourned before the board could begin discussing the issue of reimbursement.