Blackrock plant loss still under discussion

blackrockThe Inyo-Los Angeles Water Agreement was based on what amounts to a 1 to 1 vote over objections. Inyo gets one vote and LA gets one vote. That means LA can hang up Inyo’s concerns for a long time. Take the Black Rock area north of Independence, known as Blackrock 94. Inyo began to see plant loss there before 1991 and on to the present. For over 23 years, Inyo suspected DWP’s groundwater pumping killed off plants there. Finally in 2011, Inyo presented a report to the Technical Group of staff members from Inyo and LA. That report alleged a measurable vegetation loss from groundwater pumping and reduced surface water diversions. The issue remains unresolved. The two sides will continue to talk about Blackrock 94 when the Standing Committee meets Tuesday at 11am at the Inyo Supervisors Board Room.

In 2012, with no resolution of the 2011 report of groundwater pumping damage, Inyo County started the dispute resolution process under the Water Agreement. The dispute went to the Technical Group and then the Standing Committee. DWP would not agree with Inyo’s complaint. Another year later, Inyo submitted the dispute to an Arbitration Panel. Inyo asked the Panel to determine that DWP pumping had killed off plants to a significant degree in violation of the Water Agreement and that mitigation should begin. DWP asked the arbitrators to find that Inyo had failed to follow the rules of the Water Agreement in assessing Blackrock 94.

In October of last year, the Arbitration Panel found a measurable change in plant life had taken place but that the Technical Group had failed to address what caused it and how bad it was. Back to the Technical Group. More reports were filed in April. It’s no surprise that LA and Inyo still could not agree on the issues. So it all went back to the Standing Committee. Findings are supposed to go to the Arbitration Panel by May 1st with a hearing on May 15th.

Here is where it stands – Inyo and LA agree that a measurable change in plant life has taken place in Blackrock 94. Inyo says it’s LA’s groundwater pumping and water diversions that have killed the plants. DWP says plants died, not because of their groundwater pumps, but because of climate cycles including precipitation, runoff and water spreading. DWP also says the plant die-off is “not significant.”

At Tuesday’s Standing Committee meeting, the two sides will consider a resolution of the issues and a request for more time to submit reports to the Arbitration Panel. On another issue, the agenda includes the Lower Owens River Project seasonal habit flows. The meeting starts at 11am in the Independence Supervisors Board Room.

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Ken Warner
Ken Warner
7 years ago

It doesn’t matter whether or not you believe that rapid global climate change is caused by human activity. It is prudent to not do what could make climate change faster.

“Forty-seven percent of Americans say that if global warming is happening, it is caused mostly by human activities. This is the belief backed up by the scientific evidence; in the most recent report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) in September 2013, scientists agreed that it is “extremely likely” that human emissions of greenhouse gases are causing the planet to warm.

Thirty-seven percent of Americans reject this consensus, saying that climate change is most likely caused by natural fluctuations.”

Philip Anaya
Philip Anaya
7 years ago

There is no historical certainty to DWP’s compliance to any agreement that they make as there is no certainty to what the Arbitrators will decide on Blackrock. There is some certainty however with Court imposed requirements and sanctions as an example the Lower Owens River Project. Even then cooperative efforts seem to be unattainable.
There are many implications for the Long Term Water Agreement (LTWA) in the “Proposed Resolution” and Inyo County should only agree to resolution of Blackrock if it strengthens the Water Agreement. The County should not consider any provisions within an agreement that weakens the LTWA especially the “Restriction on Initiation of New Dispute”.
There is a proposal to reduce pumping by 1/3 at Blackrock to study the effects of Groundwater pumping on the water table but only for one year. There is the question of what occurs with the current drought condititons. There is also the question of what occurs with the results of the study and those specific issues and criteria should be addressed and accompanied with sanctions if not implemented.
Solutions to the issues of the degraded lands in the Owens Valley need cooperative efforts and that begins with a recognition of “cause and effect” and Inyo County should not make any agreement with the DWP regarding Blackrock without any agreement with DWP of what has caused the problem in the first place.