Updates on water providers, county business

By Deb Murphy

The California Water Resources Control Board isn’t satisfied with the speed with which Inyo’s Environmental Health Department is logging data on its 81 small community water providers. But, the Board of Supervisors agreed with department director Kathe Barton in her plea to request a hearing with the Board to avoid the State taking over regulation of those systems.

To be clear, the systems at risk of being gobbled up provide water to between five and 199 hook-ups. These systems come under a ton of regulations and it has been EH’s task to make sure they are in compliance.

During her presentation to the Board, Barton explained some of the additional help her department gives to these little systems, help the State probably won’t provide.

The source of the problem is two-fold, Barton said. With staffing and budget issues around 2014, the number of full-time bodies tasked with data processing dropped to a fourth of person. The State and Environmental Protection Agency doubled the workload for what is referred to as Local Primacy Agencies. Two employees were added last summer. With the department’s workload distribution, that bumped the body count up to one, but the Water Board wants to see that number go up to two.

The cost of that extra person would be $80,000; the loss of the Small Water Program would cost the County $50,000. On the bright side, Barton explained Assembly Bill 402 is expected to pass soon and would provide an additional funding source for LPAs.

We want to keep control,” said Supervisor Dan Totheroh. “We’ll work with the State if a position is what it will take to keep that control.” He praised Barton and the department for the help they provide the little water systems to understand and be in compliance with the regulations.

One of those requirements is oversight by a certified water system operator. Since Inyo is taking over management of the Laws, Lone Pine and Independence community water systems, it is in the process of certifying Public Works employees who, in turn, could work with those little systems.

To give an idea of how small these systems are: New Wilkerson, with seven relatively short streets, has four mutual water companies, each of which has to comply with State and Federal regs.

Bishop’s Seibu to School Bike Path:

The City of Bishop beat the March 18 deadline to hang onto CalTrans grant funding for a pathway connecting elementary schools to points north, the Seibu to School Bike Path. The final sticking point was signatures from both Bishop and the Los Angeles Department of Water Power on a Right to Enter and Construct agreement. That agreement would allow the City access to the department’s land to start construction for the path prior to finalizing Bishop’s purchase of the land.

Bishop City Council gave the go-ahead at its February 26 meeting and the department got the agreement signed off and back within the tight time line.

CalTrans is now going through the paperwork, but Public Works Director Dave Grah was confident enough to predict construction this summer.

Owens River Water Trail Update

The Inyo Board of Supervisors approved the formality of encumbering a $110,000 grant from California Boating and Waterways Commission to cover the cost of getting a handicapped-accessible launch and take-out project on the Owens River Water Trail shovel ready.

The County Water Department anticipates the environmental study, funded by the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power, will be completed by this summer. The environmental work covers both the work required to widen portions of the river, starting north of Lone Pine to the pump-back station, for kayaks and canoes and construction of the launches.

 Like all things related to the State and Los Angeles, there are still quirks to work out. The California Natural Resources Agency, the source of the half-a-million dollar grant for the River Trail work, requires a site agreement between Inyo and LADWP. The Boating and Waterways Commission requires a 20-year lease. Other than that, the project is moving forward.

 

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