By Deb Murphy
The scope of the Owens River basin’s sustainability plan became clearer following a presentation by DBS&A’s Tony Martin at last Thursday’s meeting of the Owens Valley Groundwater Authority.
The consulting firm’s tasks include compiling data, developing a timeline and stakeholder outreach plan and pulling together ecosystem data. The key, it seems, is setting objectives (best case scenarios) and thresholds (worst case) with enough of a spread to keep the Authority from violating its own plan but still get the plan approved by the state Department of Water Resources.
According to Martin, the OVGA can set area-specific criteria, important in light of the diversity of the water demands on the basin.
Martin also responded to the two obvious elephants in the room: the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power, whose portion of the aquifer is exempt from the enabling legislation, the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act, and climate change.
“We need to know what LADWP is doing,” Martin said, “if it impacts what we’re doing. There needs to be communication.”
On climate change, the legislation has that covered: the sustainability plan has to work for the next 50 years, forcing the plan to model potential changes in precipitation and run-off.
The liveliest discussion continued to focus on admitting associate board members, with voting power, and interested parties. Inyo County Water Department Director Aaron Steinwand outlined the details in simply determining interest. A press release has been sent to area media, a letter and statement of interest form will be sent to potential associates and e-mailed to the long list of interested parties.
At earlier meetings, some board members balked at adding voting members to the board. Chairman Fred Stump came out strongly against adding any entity other than area Tribes. Once the existing board sees the extent of interest, it can deal with adding members, a process that has already been outlined in the Joint Powers Agreement signed by all 11 current members.
Bishop resident Phil Anaya questioned the use of the word “may” in relation to considering formal applications. “The wording ‘will’ not ‘may’ says you’re serious about doing this,” he said. Stump reminded Anaya “the board hasn’t made up its mind yet.”
When it came time to discuss future meeting agenda items, Big Pine Community Service District representative BryAnna Vaughan brought up continued funding for the OVGA, a topic looming over the Authority with the realization of higher than anticipated staff costs from Inyo and Mono County personnel.
The board dealt with that issue during the closed session discussion on executive manager, staff and legal counsel contracts.