By Deb Murphy
The first few hours of Wednesday’s Technical Group meeting continued the verbal wrestling match between Inyo County and the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power over a proposed two-month pumping test on Five Bridges’ W385. Then came the question of the department providing water to three landfill sites as a new enhancement/mitigation project.
Inyo has begun condemnation proceedings on the sites, an action that drew a lawsuit from the City. The condemnation includes water rights. LADWP raised the possibility of the new E/M project at the last Tech Group meeting, a suggestion that wasn’t immediately embraced by Inyo’s Water Department.
The 8-page description of the possible project was handed out at the meeting as the department’s attorney, Dave Edwards, began the discussion. Apparently, an attempt to e-mail the document earlier Tuesday morning failed. Edwards admitted the Long Term Water Agreement was ambiguous on the topic of adding E/Ms. Bringing the issue to the Tech Group seemed to be a courtesy.
Then Inyo CAO Kevin Carunchio jumped into the discussion. “This isn’t mitigation,” he said as he leafed through the document. “But, where’s the enhancement? All I see are a couple of bullets.”
Edwards’ response: $100,000 for fencing, reliable water for the sites and a replacement well at the Bishop site. One issue with landfill water as an E/M project is the fact LADWP has historically pulled back on E/M water during low run-off years.
“We’re not opening the E/M door,” Edwards said in reference to a remark made by Carunchio when the topic was broached last month.
But Carunchio still blew the hinges off the door, running through a list of possible projects: an independent source of water for the Lone Pine FFA farm, the Bartell parcel in Big Pine, golf courses, county parks and campgrounds, Mono County ranch lessees get a water guarantee, the Veterans’ Path in Big Pine, completion of the Bike to School path in Bishop, open the Haiwee reservoir to the public, the Owens Water Trail, the County Farm in Big Pine and an increase from three to five acre-feet for Inyo reservations.
Carunchio asked if anyone in attendance had suggestions for new E/M projects. Earl Wilson recommended water to an area in Lone Pine, the site of a tree with historical significance. As a way to define the concept, Carunchio explained to LADWP staff. “The tree is like the Roosevelt Pine in Big Pine,” he said. “But it’s dead.”
After Carunchio’s litany, Aqueduct Manager Jim Yannotta broke the silence: The County has to assume full responsibility for any new E/M projects, all of which have to be water neutral.
Regardless of the Tech Group discussion, LADWP staff will make the recommendation to the Standing Committee, scheduled for April 9.
Rewind to the on-going saga of the pumping test on W385.
This time Edwards led LADWP’s discussion—in essence trying to get the County to say it had developed the monitoring plan jointly with the department.
There were other issues woven into the discussion: Was the question focused on the monitoring plan “in compliance with the Long Term Water Agreement,” or “with Section Vi of the Long Term Water Agreement;” the agreement doesn’t outline procedures for modified wells, so did LADWP refer to 385 as a “new” well in order to have a defined procedure or to sever it from failed mitigation obligations?
Water Department’s Aaron Steinwand tried to clarify the issue: the binding mitigation plan for Five Bridges calls for a permanent off status on both W385 and 386. “That has to be changed,” he said.
During breaks in the Tech Group meeting, the meeting attendees focused on the ramifications of the County agreeing to the statement. One theory: if Inyo admits to “jointly” developing the monitoring plan for the well test, it would imply a tacit agreement with the well test procedure and, perhaps, the test itself.
The only sure thing: this agenda item will keep coming back, perhaps forever.