Common sense tells you dewatering grazing lands in Mono County has the potential of messing with the eco-system. A team of scientists has been hired to outline just how complicated that proposition is.

Scientists from Bauer Planning and Environmental Services will be preparing the County’s comments on the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power’s preparation of an Environmental Impact Report. Sandra Bauer and biologist Jim Paulus outlined those efforts at Tuesday’s Board of Supervisors’ meeting.

The department will hold a public scoping meeting at 6:30, September 26 at the Mammoth Outlet Mall. Comments are due October 16.

Bauer explained the reasons to submit comments to LADWP’s Notice of Preparation: demonstrate the possibility of environmental harm; no lawsuits can be filed once the EIR is published unless the basic legal issues are raised during the process and to provide significant recommendations.

Then Paulus gave scientific weight to a lot of the assumptions already discussed at previous Board meetings.

  • After 50 to 100 years of watering, an area has all the conditions to qualify as wetlands.
  • Habitat for the sage grouse chicks require, not just the presence of water, but distribution of water over the wetland area—the kind of distribution resulting from water spreading as opposed to water flowing through a channel.
  • The impact of listing the sage grouse as threatened or endangered would have a county-wide impact and require an economic analysis. That impact was noted during the listing process five years ago.
  • The EIR has to include a water management and a habitat protection plan. “It takes a long time to make wetlands and a short time to kill it,” Paulus said.
  • There is a strong likelihood for air pollution and increased wildland fire issues once the meadows convert to either dirt or invasive species. Wildland fires morphed from potential to reality earlier this month when a LADWP drone crash sparked a fire between Crowley Lake and U.S. Highway 395. There was speculation the drone collided with a turkey buzzard, but no buzzard corpse was recovered from the site.

Supervisor Fred Stump, whose district includes the dewatered Long and Little Round valleys, made the point that forecasts indicate “higher snow levels but not necessarily less precipitation.” Paulus agreed, adding that wetlands act as a storage facility for fast run-off, holding water and releasing it slowly.

Again, LADWP will hold a public scoping meeting at 6:30, September 26 at the Mammoth Outlet Mall. Comments are due October 16.

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