By Deb Murphy
Inyo County Water Department and the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power have reached an agreement on the pumping test of Well 385 in the Five Bridges area. Tuesday, the Board of Supervisors will approve, or not, that agreement.
The agreement allows the two month test to proceed once the Tech Group adopts the Monitoring and Management Plan (dated June 2018 and included with the agreement in the Board agenda packet) and amends the 1999 Revegetation Plan to “temporarily suspend” the requirement to permanently shut off Wells 385 and 386. Required steps are also outlined if LADWP chooses to conduct pumping tests on Well 386 or tests on both wells running simultaneously.
Conditions are also established for operational pumping of both or either of the two wells: The Tech Group designates a management area and monitoring site requirements for each well; the goals of the Revegetation Plan have been met or a new management plan for the area is established and those new goals met and LADWP prepares an “appropriate CEQA” on the operation of the wells.
It does not, however, define “appropriate.” The LADWP Commissioners approved an Initial Study/Negative Declaration on the pump test for Well 385 last November. Apparently, the board considered the Negative Dec as appropriate.
According to the Agreement, LADWP will withdraw its dispute over the status of the Five Bridges Mitigation, but no agreement exists on whether mitigation has met goals. The department asserts mitigation has reached goal, based on an impact area totaling 300 acres. Inyo County’s position is the impacted area is limited to 60 acres where mitigation has fallen far short of goals of species and coverage.
However, the agreement states “all the goals of the 1999 Revegetation Plan apply to the areas described in the Plan.” Google the Plan, find the Five Bridges description. It clearly states the area is confined to those 60 acres.
The alternatives are spelled out in the Supervisors’ board packet. In essence, if the agreement is not approved and the disputes by both the County and LADWP go ahead, it is uncertain whether the environmental protections within the agreement will still be in place. The worst-case-scenario appears to be LADWP’s ability to proceed with the pumping tests and/or operation of the wells without the protections outlined in the management and monitoring plan.
The settlement agreement discussion is item 22 on the agenda. The open session of the Board meeting begins at 10 a.m. Tuesday.