Inyo officials concerned about environment, water agreement

inyosupervisors4-16Inyo County’s response to the Department of Water and Power pumping plan reveals that water levels in all well fields are below the baseline expected to protect the environment. The letter also reveals that vegetation is below baseline in five of seven well fields. Is this a condition that can go on without serious consequences? We talked to three of the five Inyo Supervisors.

Supervisor Jeff Griffiths did push to reduce pumping in the Big Pine area, but he also said there is no criteria for when we attempt to cut back on pumping. He said, “I had no procedure to fall back on.” Asked how he feels about delays on the critical revision of the pumping management section of the Long Term Water Agreement, Griffiths said, “I feel that the DWP strategy is to delay, and they are very good at it. The question is what should we do. I will look for that answer.”

Supervisor Matt Kingsley was not in attendance at the Board meeting which addressed the pumping plan. He said he needed to look into the situation further but commented that “DWP is starting at a more reasonable place.”

As for the pattern of lowered water tables and diminished plant life, Supervisor Mark Tillemans said, “This continuing pattern should be, and is of concern to us all. I’m doing my best to learn what my role is,” he said, “and how to most effectively implement positive change regarding this matter.” Tillemans called it a complicated situation and said, “The Water Agreement does not have effective dispute procedures.”

At least 30 years ago, citizens warned the Supervisors that the Water Agreement language would never protect the Owens Valley environment. The awkward processes in that agreement have proven to be of little help. Supervisor Jeff Griffiths said he is trying to “get better procedures in place to resolve disputes and revise the Green Book”, which is the pumping management plan in the Water Agreement. Said Griffiths, “We need to make groundwater management functional.” He added that it is very distressing to him – the lack of the Supervisors’ ability to solve anything.

Griffiths also pointed to the Black Rock area north of Independence which is now in a dispute process with DWP. This issue has dragged on for more than three years, and, as Griffiths said, “Groundwater dependent vegetation is gone and won’t come back.” He also said, “The current method of delay, delay, delay does not serve Inyo. Impacts happen before action can be taken,” he said.

We also placed calls to Supervisor Chair Linda Arcularious, who did not return the call. Supervisor Rick Pucci did return our calls, but we did not connect with him for his comments on groundwater issues.

More on the pumping plan when the Inyo-Los Angeles Technical Group meets Wednesday morning at 10am at the Inyo County Water Department Conference Room in Independence. At that meeting, staff members will talk about pumping and about DWP’s proposed reduction in irrigation for this runoff year. DWP has also requested a reduction of mitigation project water supply for this year.

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11 Responses to Inyo officials concerned about environment, water agreement

  1. Phiilip Anaya May 6, 2013 at 11:14 am #

    The Interim Management policy (IMP) of the Water Agreement, which superseded the Drought Recovery Program (DRP) for the 2007-2010 runoff years limited pumping to 57,412 acre feet per year( AFY). The Inyo County Water Dept has recommended, in it’s “Comments to the 2013 DWP Proposed Operations Plan” document, pumping be limited to between 46,825- 49,585 acre feet , but only in a 6 month period April-Sept.
    How many acre feet is recommended for the entire runoff year? 80-90,000 acre feet?
    Why was the drought year 2007 limited to 57,412 AFY when the baseline numbers indicated a better condition for vegetation than current 2013 baseline numbers and the spectre of 80,000-90,000 AFY of pumping in this current 2013 Operation Plan.
    The simple requirements of the Drought Recovery Policy (DRP) need to be applied to the forthcoming Tech Group Discussions . The responsibilities for the requirements of the Drought Recovery Program (DRP) need to be enforced by both the LADWP and the Inyo County Water Dept.
    The DRP is an overlay on the Water Agreement. The simple requirements of the Drought Recovery Policy are that:

    “soil water in the rooting zone recover to a degree sufficent so that the vegetation goals of the Water Agreement are achieved.”

    The Board of Supervisors should have a singular goal in mind when they are directing the Water Department in this Pumping Plan Discussion and when they are considering decisions regarding pumping and the DWP proposed reductions of water to the Ranchers and the already agreed to mitigation projects.
    “Soil Water in the Rooting Zone” whether it is for the Ranchers grasses, or the soils of the Valley not yet impacted in this second year of drought ,or for the soils of the Valley that are already damaged and are included in existing mitigation projects is a goal and should be the bottom line test of every question concerned with the waters of the Owens Valley. If the trout are swimming in the stream and prospering then there is sufficent envirionment for their future. If the canary is singing in the mine then there is air to breathe and if there is vegetation growing happily on the Valley Floor and the birds and bees are thriving then there is “soilwater in the rooting zone” and paradise is there as it was forever intended.

  2. Tim May 6, 2013 at 8:55 am #

    Saudi Arabia is spending 66 billion dollars on desalinization plants over the next 10 years. Their latest plant will produce 158 million gallons per day, about 35% of what LA uses. Perhaps they will sell us water when they run out of oil.

    • Mark May 6, 2013 at 11:40 am #

      And they’re probably building it with our tax dollars too

    • Desert Tortoise May 6, 2013 at 2:46 pm #

      Desalinization is a terrible way to provide fresh water. It has three irredeemable flaws. Number one is the huge amount of electrical energy required to operate any kind of desalinization plant. This state does not begin to generate enough electricity to make desalinization on a large scale practical, and I doubt anyone wants the negative impacts of increased power generation in this state. Cooling these plants requires immense amounts of fresh water and in the future, coastal power plants will either have to shut down or cease using ocean water for cooling due to the adverse impacts on the local fish and aquatic plant populations.

      The second problem is the waste stream from desalinization. All of the pollutants removed from ocean water, which are substantial, along with all of the salt has to be disposed of. You cannot dump that concentrated brine back into the ocean, it will due major damage at the outfall. The waste has to be dried out and buried at a hazardous waste facility.

      The third problem is the price. Desalinized water costs upwards of $2000 per acre foot, double the price MWD charges most customers for Northern California water and more than double the cost of Owens Valley water.

      The most cost effective fresh water source is to treat sewage to a potable standard and pump this back into the aquifer. This costs around $1200 per acre foot, making it competitive with the most expensive imported surface water for Southern California.

      Do you really think the Saudis care about the environmental damage they do? No. Their oil pipelines use heaters and pumping stations that burn crude oil, and emit clouds of acrid black smoke in the process. They are more interested in making money and have no consciousness of their environment.


      • Tim May 6, 2013 at 8:08 pm #

        DT, I read about all those negatives as you did and realize desal is not without very high costs. The thing that caught my attention was how they propose to redistribute the plankton and salts so they wouldn’t kill sea life. Still, it’s happening half way around the world and there isn’t a damn thing we can do about it. Countries continue to build nuclear reactors for power; China has some 20 projects going in now. We are not exempt from the fallout; remember the dust a few weeks ago from there? Fukushima pelted California with radioactive fallout after the big earthquake. We have used our surplus water, we burn oil, and we run steam plants with super heated water from nuclear reactors. Shucks, we can’t even manage a little bear properly. I’d say we are headed for a big die off, we have lived well beyond our means for about a century. I’ve decided to start drinking and smoking again, I’ll keep up my diet so I look trim doing it.

        • Desert Tortoise May 7, 2013 at 4:16 pm #

          Forget desal. Even if the salts are redistributed what happens to all the other pollutants that come out of the process? HAZMAT, that’s what, all destined for special disposal facilities. And don’t forget all the electricity necessary. Purify sewage and pump it back into the aquifer. It’s cheaper and has far fewer adverse impacts.

          There are gas cooled reactor technologies in development that, combined with gas turbine technology, make nuclear power very attractive and can be designed to be self regulating in as much as they cannot overheat and melt down. They do not have the power density of a pressurized water cooled reactor but they are simpler in important ways.

          The same gas turbine technology can make some forms of dry solar power possible where currently water is required, a real boon for desert installations where ground water is scarce and recharge rates are low.

          Hey, in 4-6 billion years when the sun consumes it’s hydrogen fuel and begins to burn helium, the sun will grow past the orbit of Mars, this planet and all of the planets of the inner solar system are toast, so absolutely nothing is permanent. Just hope we figure out long distance space travel and find suitable accommodation elsewhere before moving off this planet becomes a matter of survival.

  3. MJA May 6, 2013 at 7:39 am #

    I think Inyo County should insist the pumps be shut off until the well water is above the baseline health level of the environment. Unless they are stopped, the Valley will continue to die. =

  4. Themis May 5, 2013 at 10:14 pm #

    If the dispute resolution process in the Water Agreement is gridlocked by DWP semantics, why not sue them for failure to complete mitigation as required by the CEQA Guidelines (California Code of Regulations Title 14, Sec. 15097)? “….however, until mitigation measures have been completed the lead agency remains responsible for ensuring that implementation of the mitigation measures occurs in accordance with the program.”
    The Water Agreement and its provisions are a mitigation measure, and the DWP is required to make it work. If the mitigation outcomes aren’t satisfactory, go after them. The City is obligated to protect the vegetation in the Owens Valley. Other than the Water Agreement, there are many other mitigation measures that either have not been started or have not been done correctly. It’ll be 16 years on June 13 since the Court of Appeals approved the 1991 EIR.

    Since the Water Agreement provisions have to be implemented because it was included in the EIR as a mitigation measure, bring back the Groundwater Ordinance and regulate what DWP can pump for export. Take the risk that the Ordinance will be upheld by the Court. Tehama County’s was, and many other California counties have groundwater ordinances.

    Justice for the Valley must be pursued, even if it takes many disputes or new legal action. Nothing is more important than keeping the water here – owed to us under the EIR and Water Agreement. Doing nothing is not an option.

    • Philip Anaya May 6, 2013 at 7:23 pm #

      Really like your post Themis. Being the namesake that you are “the embodiment of divine order, law and custom”, your words, “Justice for the Valley must be pursued” says it all. “Doing nothing is not an option” is truth beyond all of that.
      I have been reading today. This is the link to the Inyo County Water Dept Blackrock Arbitration filing;
      The origination of this process was in 2007 by the Bristlecone Chapter of the Native Plant Society. It’s a very interesting read. The folks at the Native Plant Society and at the ICWD must be experiencing patience overload to the max by now. Attempts at cynical comic relief is not a solution . DWP understands legal action especially this past week. That’s a solution.

      Tomorrow morning,Tuesday May 7 the Inyo Board of Supervisors have two Water Issues beginning at 9:30 am, having to do with DWP’s request to reduce water to the Ranchers and the mitigation projects. It’s time to say “No” to the DWP.
      With certainty it is a lot more complicated issue that merely saying “No” can resolve, however saying “No” keeps the water in the Valley. Saying “No” supports and protects the Ranchers Water and the already devastated existing mitigation projects. The DWP cannot reduce these waters without approval from the Board of Supervisors. If they reduce those waters without Inyo County assent they will be in severe violation of the Water Agreement. DWP is able to purchase sufficent water for Los Angeles from the MWD coming from the California Water Project at the rate of $600.00 an Acre foot. Ranchers, mitigation projects and all the other water needs of the Valley cannot get water from the MWD and the Calif Water project at any price. The DWP needs to hear this over and over againand the DWP needs to pay greater attention to the source of all life, all the waters, Mother Nature .They need to begin to understanding the concept of receiving what Nature provides vs what they take with their100 year old miracle of the Aqueduct. Funny how Mother Nature can call us out, always right on schedule.

  5. Philip Anaya May 5, 2013 at 8:30 pm #

    The Inyo County comments Document on LADWP Proposed Annual OperationsPlan for Runoff year 2013-14 is available at this link:

  6. Tim May 5, 2013 at 7:57 pm #

    What are they going to do about it?
    DWP figures it’s the same thing they have done for the past 100 years.


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