By Deb Murphy
Tuesday’s meeting of the Inyo County/Los Angeles Department of Water and Power Technical Group started with grim news on the snow pack—34-percent of normal—and ended with a continued stand-off on the Well 385 pump test.
Here are the highlights:
Aqueduct Manager Jim Yannotta introduced the concept of identifying water available for use at the County’s three landfill sites as Enhancement/Mitigation projects. “We’re not looking at taking water away” from other E/M projects, Yannotta assured the County.
Inyo has begun the process of condemning the three landfill sites with the intent of purchasing the land, and the water rights, from Los Angeles. The City Charter won’t allow any transfer of water rights, so the designation of landfill water as an enhancement could be a way around that problem, County Water Director Bob Harrington pointed out. Initially, the water rights were included in the condemnation because on-site water is a necessity for landfill operations.
County CAO Kevin Carrunchio jumped on the idea of “an open E/M store” by listing off other appropriate uses for E/M water. From the expression on Yannotta’s face, that’s not going to happen.
At the conclusion of the discussion, Harrington suggested staff and legal get together and present the possibility to the Standing Committee.
County Mitigation Manager Larry Freilich did a brief outline of the feasibility study on using reclaimed water on a 160-acre mitigation project in Big Pine, within easy reach of the Big Pine Community Service District’s wastewater treatment ponds. He requested comments from LADWP be in by the deadline in mid-March.
Yannotta couldn’t guarantee staff could review and respond by the deadline.
LADWP’s Dave Martin ran through data proving the 300-acre Five Bridges mitigation project was complete and successful, concluding that using pulsing river flows was the most effective way to get water to the area. County’s Aaron Steinwand said staff would do a similar study and get back with LADWP.
The final item on the agenda was a re-hash of the mid-December Tech Group’s W385 pump test/monitoring plan. The department wanted the County to say the two had worked jointly on the plan in compliance with the Long Term Water Agreement. Harrington read a statement, significantly longer than the December statement, outlining the legal issues involved. The County’s bottom line: LADWP’s two-month test is a violation of CEQA unless they adopt a temporary modification to the Five Bridges mitigation measure and revegetation plan. In addition, while LADWP has treated the modified well as “new,” Harrington’s statement pointed out the department failed to meet the appropriate protocol for “new” wells.
Harrington said the monitoring plan couldn’t be okayed as a separate element of the whole W385 issue.
The elephant in the room: why is it so important to LADWP the County goes on the record stating the monitoring plan was worked on jointly and in compliance with the water agreement? What are the legal implications, or put more crassly, what’s the “gotcha” if the County agrees with that statement?