By Deb Murphy

Inyo and Mono counties have more in common than most residents of either would like to admit. Both have vast areas of public lands, small populations, housing issues and economies driven by tourism. Eastern Sierra Council of Governments meetings are the one safe harbor for open discussion of mutual issues.

Elected officials from both counties and the towns of Mammoth Lakes and Bishop met last week to go over some of those issues. Here’s a snapshot.

Air Service

Trying to coordinate information between Mammoth and Inyo County has exposed more questions than answers—especially without any input from Alterra Mountain Company. Last week’s ESCOG meeting provided some hints, but a joint meeting August 28, at 5:30 p.m. in Mammoth, should provide some real answers.

According to Council member John Wentworth, the town will be using $25 million in Federal Aviation Administration funding on facility improvements, but will let Inyo, Alterra and the FAA work out the details and timeline on the Bishop Airport. Mammoth won’t be writing any checks, “that’s between Inyo and Alterra,” said Wentworth.

“Money will be coming through the FAA pipeline,” Inyo Supervisor Jeff Griffiths reported. “Once the FAA saw we (Inyo, Mammoth and Alterra) were on the same page, they’re going to make this a top regional priority.”

Inyo will have to do a National Environmental Policy Act analysis based on the most ambitious airport build-out, Griffiths said, to avoid having to revisit environmental work in the future. The funding is in Inyo’s budget.

Fire and Smoke

Mammoth Lakes was seriously threatened by the Lions Fire; both counties have been shrouded in smoke for much of the summer. Unfortunately, the most effective weapon against uncontrolled wildland fires is the use of controlled burns and the removal of large swathes of dead trees.

“We’re going to be seeing controlled burns for the next 20 years,” Wentworth said referring to forest plans that also include allowing wildland fires that do not threaten life or property to run their course.

Mono Supervisor Bob Gardner’s answer was educating the smoke-inhaling public through a series of public meetings.

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