Sierra Wave Media

Eastern Sierra News for July 18, 2024





Inyo County news release

On January 5, the County of Inyo filed litigation challenging the legality of a “negative declaration” adopted by the City of Los Angeles’ Department of Water and Power (LADWP) pursuant to the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) in November when it approved a two-month pump test of Well 385R, claiming that prior mitigation measures prohibiting the well’s operation no longer applied.

LADWP headquarters

The County was facing a January 5 deadline to file the challenge as a follow-up to its request that LADWP rescind its negative declaration.
On December 29, LADWP announced that it was postponing its proposed two-month pumping test of Well 385R due to poor runoff conditions; however, Inyo County is concerned that the negative declaration adopted by the LADWP Board remains in effect.
As the County explained in correspondence to LADWP, Inyo County does not believe that the negative declaration is in compliance with CEQA because operating Well 385R is inconsistent with mitigation already adopted by LADWP. The well identified by LADWP as Well 385 was drilled in the Five Bridges area of the Laws wellfield in March 1987.
The well, together with nearby Well 386, was operated from 1987 to 1989. The groundwater pumping from the two wells resulted in significant adverse impacts to approximately 300 acres of riparian vegetation in the vicinity of the wells. As a result, when the Long Term Water Agreement and the Environmental Impact Report that addressed the Water Agreement were approved in 1991, the EIR contained a mitigation measure that provided that neither well 385 nor well 386 would be operated.
Further, in 1999, a revegetation plan was adopted by LADWP that stated that the two wells would be “permanently shut down.” LADWP has not modified or deleted the mitigation requiring that the well not be operated. In 2014, LADWP modified Well 385 and renamed the well “W385R.” In the negative declaration adopted by LADWP in November 2017, LADWP claims that Well 385R is a “new well” and therefore the mitigation that prohibits Well 385 from being operated does not apply to Well 385R. Inyo County believes that the proposed two-month pump test remains prohibited by the mitigation adopted by LADWP.
The County requested that LADWP rescind the negative declaration, but LADWP refused. Under CEQA, the County had until January 5, 2018 to file a legal challenge of the legality of the negative declaration. If the County did not challenge the legality of the negative declaration by January 5, LADWP would be free to conduct its proposed pumping test in the future and the County would be unable to seek to stop the test under CEQA.
Consequently, the County commenced a legal challenge of the negative declaration last week. The litigation commenced by the County requests the Inyo County Superior Court to find that the negative declaration was adopted by LADWP in violation of CEQA and requests that the Court prohibit LADWP from conducting the test.
Concerning the importance of the County’s CEQA challenge, the Chairman of the Inyo County Board of Supervisors, Dan Totheroh, noted that a key provision of the Long-Term Water Agreement between Los Angeles and the County is the implementation of mitigation measures by LADWP. Supervisor Totheroh said that this critical protection of Inyo County’s environment would be meaningless if LADWP can simply ignore its mitigation commitments by unilaterally claiming that they no longer are required.

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