Inyo Declines to Fight LADWP Pumping Rate but Draws a Line

The Inyo Water Director earlier said that LADWP’s pumping plan this year will lower water tables and likely violate the pump_-_lawsWater Agreement goals. DWP wants 86,000 acre feet of pumped water which is 35% more than last year. Inyo officials will not dispute DWP’s plan but will focus on a revised groundwater management plan which they say must be in place for next runoff year or the County will work alone on a plan of its own to manage pumps.

Harrington sent a letter to DWP Manager Gene Coufal earlier this month. The letter says Inyo will not dispute DWP’s plan to proceed with its pumping plans over Inyo’s objections. Harrington wrote that “Inyo County determined that LADWP’s proposed pumping plans is not protective of the environment in Owens Valley and proposed a lesser, more protective pumping plan, which LADWP rejected.” Harrington said that although the County disagrees with LADWP’s decision, “we do not believe it would be fruitful to dispute this plan.”

Harrington wrote that “The County remains firm in the belief that Owens Valley cannot safely sustain the level of pumping” DWP proposes. Harrington points to the deficiency of what’s called the Green Book – the pumping regulation methods in the Long Term Water Agreement.

Harrington’s letter says that Inyo will work with LADWP toward the goal of a water table based groundwater management for Big Pine and Taboose-Aberdeen wellfields for next runoff year. Harrington says if that goal is not pursued cooperatively, Inyo will go off on its own.

The letter to DWP also says the process toward groundwater regulation has to go public. It has been a virtually secret process with no knowledge of progress and no public input. Harrington also warns that the Water Department has seen losses of and changes in vegetation in the Blackrock area. He says if its due to groundwater pumping, mitigation will be called for.

Officials began to negotiate the Water Agreement 25 years ago and signed the Agreement 13 years ago. Observers wonder at the key lack of control over groundwater pumps which was the issue in Inyo County’s environmental lawsuit in the 70s. The Water Agreement was supposed to settle that concern. Appeals Court judges had warned Inyo Supervisors that the Agreement would not offer environmental law protections, but they signed it anyway.

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