The Standing Committee is an interesting beast. Established by the Long Term Water Agreement, it brings together the elected officials and staff from Inyo County and the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power. It’s been a while since the two parties met, but come together they did, virtually, on Monday morning. Maybe the news value is that the meeting was “cordial.”
The March meetings traditionally give the parties the first look at the runoff numbers and this year’s weren’t good. LADWP’s Water Engineer Eric Tillemans reported the precipitation numbers were 48-percent of the average snowpack, 58-percent of normal to date.
Tillemans explained the numbers were similar to last year but last year’s saving grace was late season precipitation. The question is: will there be late season precipitation this year. The National Weather Service predicts chances of snow, measured in inches, not feet, later this week and into next week.
The estimate for run-off stands at 75,000 to 93,000 acre-feet, but Tillemans anticipates the final measurement will be at the lower range. When asked about the possibility of irrigation limits, he explained two dry years in a row will require a two-year plan from his department and would allow for reductions. But, a change in irrigation is not proposed.
Unfortunately, the snow pack in Mono County isn’t really relevant to irrigation water in Inyo County. Irrigation water flows from creeks and streams, it doesn’t jump out of the Aqueduct.
Next on the agenda, the Black Rock Waterfowl Area, a 1,500 acre parcel home to resident and migratory birds and part of the 1997 Memorandum of Understanding and 2004 Lower Owens River Environmental Impact Report. According to LADWP’s Lori Dermody, the area is technically meeting its goals, “but could do better.” The current plan calls for discing the tulles and cat tails, then seasonal flooding and a dry-out of 500 acres through the summer months and into the fall.
The plan will be revised, reviewed and come back to the Standing Committee in May with a goal of implementation this fall.
Another problematic mitigation project: McNally Ponds. The goal—to improve the quality of the habitat—hasn’t been reached. In the meantime, water fowl have established the nearby gravel pits as their migratory resupply station. The committee was asked to consider abandoning McNally and consider Big Pine tribal lands to mitigate the pumping impacts in the area.
The final item on the agenda, the department’s Urban Water Management Plan, called for a reduction of imported water to Los Angeles, specifically reduced to 30-percent of the city’s use by 2034-35. Los Angeles’ water demand has dropped as its population has risen. That’s good news for LADWP as it reduces the volume of imported water purchased through the Metropolitan Water District.
The sting, as pointed out by Inyo Supervisor Matt Kingsley, is the fact Eastern Sierra water isn’t considered imported water. “Reducing Owens Valley water should be part of the plan,” he said. “It should be embedded as a goal.”
We have reduced imports from Owens Valley historically,” Anselmo Collins, LADWP’s director of water operations responded, “but I appreciate the comments.”