By Deb Murphy

California’s Sustainable Groundwater Management Act of 2014 sent a simple message to state water agencies: develop a sustainability plan or the state will.

Now Inyo County has to figure out what to do with those parts of the Owens Valley Groundwater Basin that do not lie under land owned by the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power.

LADWP’s portion of the basin is considered adjudicated, or governed by a court order, specifically the Long Term Water Agreement and is exempt from most provisions of SGMA.

The County Board of Supervisors will hear a presentation by Water Department Director Bob Harrington at Tuesday, at 1:30 p.m. in Independence.

The county already participates in the groundwater sustainability agency, GSA that oversees the Indian Wells basin, considered in critical over-draft. Harrington’s report will provide alternatives and recommendations for forming agencies and sustainability plans, GSPs, for Swall Meadows and Chalfant, Hammil and Benton, or the Tri-Valley.

The legislation requires agency formation by June 30, 2017 and GSPs by 2022 and provides for a flexibility within those agencies. Single or multiple public agencies can form the GSA, but private interests can participate as well.

While Harrington’s report provides a number of “if’s and then’s,” the preferred alternative seems to be a single plan for the non-LADWP portions of the Owens Valley basin funded through a state grant.

One interesting quirk could resolve the issue of groundwater pumping under the Owens Lake. The County has argued for years such pumping would be regulated under the Long Term Water Agreement; LADWP says no. But, if that portion of the Owens Valley basin isn’t included in the adjudication, it does come under provisions of SGMA.


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