By Deb Murphy
Inyo County’s administrator and Water Department have outlined their perspective on how best to bring the Owens River Groundwater Basin into compliance with the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act. Sounds simple, right?
It’s not. There are 13 public agencies, including two counties. Community Service Districts, a groundwater management district and the City of Bishop plus Tribal Councils, federal and state agencies and the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power. LADWP’s majority portion of the basin is considered an adjudicated basin governed by the Long Term Water Agreement and exempt from SGMA but LADWP will still have involvement in the process in terms of coordination with the final Groundwater Sustainability Plan.
The Board of Supervisors will take a look at the department’s recommendations, a timed item at 10:30 a.m. Tuesday morning. The supporting documents include a one-page set of principles, setting out the thinking behind the five-page framework for governance and financing structure.
The clock is ticking on decisions. An eligible agency has to step up by June 30. Without an agency and a subsequent plan, the State Department of Water Resources will step up, do the plan and levy fees to pay for everything.
The County held a meeting of agencies last month. According to the agenda packet, “it became evident that in order for other eligible local agencies in the basin to evaluate their individual options… it would be helpful to know where the County of Inyo sands on the matter of GSA formation.”
The Supervisors will be asked to direct staff to continue the process of filing as the GSA for the Owens River basin within the county and hold a public hearing on March 21 as well as encourage the formation of a Joint Powers Agreement with any or all of the 13 eligible agencies.
The framework calls for each of the participating JPA agencies to cover the cost of developing and administering the plan equally. Each JPA partner will then cover the costs of implementing the plan within their own jurisdictions. Those who pay the full share will have four votes in the decision making process. Agencies without the resources to carry the full financial load will be included but with less voting power. Agencies can commit to participate in the process but won’t be asked to commit to a funding level until a final budget is developed. In essence, each of the participating agencies will be a designated Management Area.
The framework also identifies an avenue for participation by area reservations and state and federal agencies with voting privileges but a financial obligation only to cover the cost of implementation within their jurisdictions. LADWP can join in with four votes by covering the cost of a fourth of the agency’s costs. Those funds will be rebated to participating eligible agencies.