Inyo-DWP clash over pumps

groundwater-pumpbp-1This year’s Department of Water and Power Pumping Plan will take 8400 acre feet more than the Inyo Supervisors wanted.  At one point the Board asked DWP to reduce its 91,000 acre foot pumping plan by 8400 acre feet in the Thibaut and Aberdeen wellfields.  DWP said fine but they would add that same amount to pumping in Laws and Independence – two areas damaged considerably by pumping over the years. Inyo Supervisors have decided not to dispute this even though officials said it would do damage.

Some think if the drought continues, DWP will try to do a lot more damage next year with a big pumping plan.  Disputes may lie ahead.

Meanwhile, another dispute is in progress.  DWP officials think they can pump groundwater to mitigate Owens Dry Lake dust without obeying the Inyo-LA Water Agreement. That document excluded any project implemented under the California Health and Safety Code from local regulation. That issue is now in the dispute phase.

Staff members of Inyo and DWP planned to talk about this latest dispute at a Technical Group meeting Friday.  Inyo Water Director Bob Harrington said it was unclear what officials had in mind when they wrote the water agreement section that DWP has raised.  Harrington said Inyo thinks that the Health and Safety code does not deal with LA’s water gathering so any well used for dust mitigation should fall under the water agreement.

This issue came up as officials work on an Owens Dry Lake Master Plan.  Inyo officials get nervous when DWP wants to pump without regulation.  DWP has proposed that they drill groundwater wells on the dry lake for mitigation.  It’s unknown if they will try to wiggle out of regulation on wells placed elsewhere.

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4 Responses to Inyo-DWP clash over pumps

  1. Valkyrie February 5, 2012 at 10:22 pm #

    It may be that the attitude of LADWP cooperation that existed when the Water Agreement was crafted is no longer possible because of Los Angeles’ population increase and climate-change induced reduction in snow packs. LA is now seeking to secure and capture every drop available in the Owens Valley because it supplants water purchases they have to make from other sources. Witness the recent purchases of lands and water rights in the Owens Valley and the clampdown on the water supply for irrigated agricultural lands. Water that heads south is water that doesn’t support plants and animals in the Owens Valley – that is, those that are left after massive pumping started in 1970 to fill the second aqueduct. As time goes on, fewer people will recall the extent of the Valley’s vegetation as it was before the “second barrel”, and the artesian wells that flowed out on the Valley floor creating habitat for all kinds of living things.

    The Water Agreement is supposed to be a mitigation measure (1991 EIR, pg S11) because its goal is to prevent vegetation condition changes due to pumping. If the citizens of Inyo County believe that the Water Agreement is failing, they can open up the court case that the Water Agreement stopped, and send the 1980 Groundwater Ordinance, which is still on the books, on to the Court of Appeals. Other counties have successfully enacted groundwater ordinances, and the Third District Court of Appeals upheld a county’s right to control groundwater within its borders in Baldwin v. Tehama in 1994. It might be something to think about….

  2. jj February 2, 2012 at 9:33 pm #

    How can this author say it is unknown if DWP will try to wiggle out of their agreement? All of their actions say they are already trying and succeeding. Can we possibly create new laws to hold DWP to their commitments?

    • 2rude February 3, 2012 at 11:19 am #

      No, actually you can’t; or at least Inyo County can’t. One of the saddest features of the Long Tem Water Agreement is that therein Inyo County promises not to seek or support any legislation affecting water rights, etc, insofar as DWP’s activities are concerned. I believe that, in doing so, the Board of Supervisors and its lawyers forever and detrimentally disenfranchised the residents of Inyo County in this regard. Thanks.

      • JJ February 4, 2012 at 8:57 am #

        Thanks 2 rude


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