Inyo Supervisors to vote on agreement on Well 385

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.

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Philip Anaya
Philip Anaya
3 years ago

Inyo County in it’s proposed settlement with the LADWP will not resolve all the issues at Five Bridges. The 1999 Revegetation Plan is a result of both the 1991 EIR and the 1997 MOU agreement . There is also the need for Owens Valley Committee, a MOU party, to resolve it’s issues in it’s current Five Bridges court actions with the DWP. The Inyo Board of Supervisors along with the consideration of it’s own settlement should also consider this MOU party’s possible settlement issues before taking any action tomorrow. There has been a strong partnership between the Board and the environmental community and there could be a dust up if Inyo proceeds unilaterally. There should be a Settlement Conference with the MOU Parties before Inyo agrees to the proposed item 22 provisions.
If agreed upon, the test of the well would occur in January /February. This settlement proposal is on the fast track for a special Standing Committee being “continued” on June the 25th. This seems like inflated deadline of sorts. There is little reason a rush a decision for a possible test 6 months away. There is sufficient time to have multiple, if necessary, Settlement Discussions. These issues and the completion of this mitigation project has been going on for decades. There is time and it is time to finally get it right.
These Five Bridges wells are yards away from the SGMA adjudicated non-adjudicated boundary.
Additionally, the non-adjudicated area contains the Fish Slough Critical Endangered Habitat. The monitoring and the on and off triggers of this proposed project is an issue for the future management of this SGMA boundary by the Owens Groundwater Sustainability Authority. The template for this vital management method of SGMA that might be contained in this settlement proposal could be a setback for the future of sustainability in the Owens Basin if we do not get it right .
While the LTWA does provide to the Technical Group the authority to amend or replace the 1999 Revegetation Plan, it does not provide the authority to modify the goals of the Project. The adoption of a new Revegetation Plan in this settlement based on a agreement that the wells are “NEW WELLS” flies in the face of actuality and logic. Simply the wells need to stay in permanent off status until the goals of the Project have been completed and the concerns of the MOU parties are considered and included in the Settlement.