LA/Inyo Standing Committee covers a lot of ground

By Deb Murphy

Here are the positive take-aways from Monday’s Standing Committee meeting: Los Angeles’s Green New Deal outlines a pathway for the City to source 70-percent of its water locally by 2035; both members of the Committee, Los Angeles and Inyo County, are open to a second look at changes to the document managing the Lower Owens River Project.

And, finally this one may put an end to rumors, or not, Los Angeles Department of Water and Power isn’t planning on using Owens Valley water to solve Indian Wells’ sustainable water problems. Water spreading in Rose Valley during the heavy 2017 run-off was a one-off.

LA Mayor Eric Garcetti’s plan includes stormwater capture capacity off 150,000 acre-feet a year, recycling 100-percent of all wastewater for beneficial use and reducing potable water use by 25-percent per person. All this by 2035.

Richard Harasick, LADWP’s senior assistant manager, made the presentation that includes doubling the capacity of the Hyperion Water Reclamation Plant south of LAX. Other elements of the plan range from the massive San Fernando groundwater basin remediation project to incentivizing individuals to capture stormwater.

Recycling and other measures would put less stress on Owens Valley, Harasick said.

Inyo’s CAO Clint Quilter asked Harasick if the 70-percent local water mandate included aqueduct water. The definition of non-local seemed to be water LADWP had to pay for—like water through the Metropolitan Water District. Harasick seemed to answer “no”—the goal would be water sourced in Los Angeles.

The Lower Owens River Project issue has been around for more than five years. The consensus of everyone involved is changes have to be made to the seasonal flow to better scour tules from the water way and to maintain a healthy fishery. Seasonal flows are generally maxed out at 200 cfs. Nick Buckmaster of the Department of Fish and Wildlife asked for a higher flows, peaking at 280 cfs, for a short period of time and earlier in the season. The initial flow would be supplemented with additional higher flows. “Past seasonal flows are inadequate,” he said. “We all know that’s not grounded in reality.”

Rather than increasing the volume of water sent down the LORP, Buckmaster said “we’re looking at doing more with less. Two hundred cfs is not achieving goals.”

One hang-up is LADWP’s reluctance to allow heavier flows without increasing the volume at the pump back station. Assistant General Manager Marty Adams said water from the pump back station didn’t go into the aqueduct but was directed onto Owens Lake. During the River Summit in 2014, the Memorandum of Understanding partners couldn’t achieve unanimity on allowing the department to increase pump back volumes.

Attorney Greg James suggested using the three-year study that included flow monitoring be used as a starting point in further discussions.

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