Report from Inyo Supervisors meeting

Deb Murphy

Inyo County’s interests have been protected in a Joint Power Agreement hashed out over the last months and signed by the Board of Supervisors at its Tuesday meeting.

The agreement is step one in the lengthy process of developing a Groundwater Sustainability Plan, required by the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act, for the over-drafted Indian Wells Valley water basin.

Inyo was one of the smaller entities involved. Other agencies include Ridgecrest, San Bernardino and Kern counties and the Indian Wells Valley Water District. IWVWD approved the JPA 3-2; San Bernardino supervisors approved the document on its consent calendar.

“Inyo didn’t want water transferred out of the county to alleviate the overdraft,” County Water Department Director Bob Harrington explained. That provision is in the JPA. Representation under the JPA is proportional, with Kern, Ridgecrest and IWVWD in a dominant position.

Aside from Peter Brown, a member of the water district board who supported the document, public comments focused on what was perceived to be a lack of representation from water users. The most vocal was Anita Imsand of Meadowbrook Dairy who had wanted a seat at the JPA formation table. As proof of her stake in water basins, Imsand said “I’ve sold water rights for $10 million.”

Meadowbrook sold 2,335 shares in water rights to the Oeste Aquifer as well as 160 acres to the Phelan Pinon Hills Community Service District in 2012 for $10.75 million. It was unclear how that earned her a seat at the JPA table.

Both Brown and Harrington stressed the JPA agency was formed first and will be governed by the Brown Act. “Then we put together the committees,” Harrington said.

Inyo and the other agencies are kicking in $15,000 but future costs will be proportional with San Bernardino, Kern counties and Ridgecrest carrying a heavier burden.

In response to the comments, Board Chair Jeff Griffiths said “the battles are in Kern. We can’t force the issue.”

This is just the first of a number of sticky Groundwater Sustainability Agency proceedings.

Community Project Sponsorship Grant Program

For nine years, the County has divided up a $95,000-$130,000 pie to support projects that enhance visitation or “otherwise provide for cultural or recreational enhancement” to area residents. The program replaced block grants to then five chambers of commerce.
The Supervisors listened to panel recommendations on grant awards last January and decided they needed a workshop on how decisions were made and money allotted. That happened Tuesday with some potentially major changes in the process but not necessarily in the actual awards.

Chief Administrative Officer Kevin Carunchio opened the workshop with the CPSP back story and some suggestions. After nearly two hours of discussion, the Board directed staff to incorporate the following recommendations and bring a draft back to the board.

The top eight to ten projects could funded as line items. Those projects which have been funded consistently over the last nine to seven years include the Inyo County Visitors’ Guide, Blake Jones Trout Derby, California High School Rodeo Association Finals, Independence Fathers’ Day Derby, Wild West Marathon, Laws Benefit Concert, Death Valley Visitors’ Guide and Images of Inyo Photo Contest.

Carunchio suggested guaranteeing a set amount to four fishing derbies, one per community on U.S. Hwy. 396. Big Pine is the only one of the four without a derby.

The balance of submitted proposals could be vetted through the panel to ensure awards to innovative and unique programs and projects. A rough estimate of available funding would be 440,000.

Include a question for applications on the scalability of the project. Could the project go forward with less than the requested funding?
Rather than two funding cycles, have only one.

Library Automation
The Board approved a contract with Backstage Library Works to create machine readable cataloging records for the county’s libraries as well as hiring a temporary librarian for six months to complete the shelf list at a cost of no more than $25,000 and $20,000 respectively.

Assistant CAO Rick Benson told the Supervisor Friends of the Bishop Library would cover the contract with Backstage.
The libraries will be fully automated by February 1, 2017.

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