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Eastern Sierra News for [current_date format=’F d, Y’]



By Deb Murphy

In addition to Portagee Joe, Fifth District Supervisor Matt Kingsley’s town meeting in Lone Pine recently covered a range of topics. Here are the highlights:

  • Kingsley asked for patience as the County wrangles with the house-sized boulders clogging the newly-paved Mount Whitney Portal Road. “I think we can deal with this before the tourist season,” he said. “I recognize how important that is to this town.” The “dealing with” started with an official emergency declaration that should channel state and/or federal monies to the task of clearing the road. The larger boulders have to be blasted apart before they can be pushed off the side of the mountain—a task cleared with the appropriate agencies. Specialists on the stability of the mountain side have to be brought in as does equipment with enough horsepower to deal with the situation.

  • CAO Kevin Carrunchio unveiled a marketing plan focused on U.S. Hwy. 395’s designation as El Camino Sierra (like the coast’s El Camino Real, just farther east). Carrunchio reviewed some of the history: the Inyo Good Road Club lobbied then Governor James Gillett to have the road proclaimed one of four El Caminos. In essence, a new State Assembly Proclamation could generative government funding for road signs linking the current highway to its rich past. Carrunchio’s vision is a branding campaign for local communities and businesses. How cool is it to be “in the heart of El Camino Sierra”? The plan for Phase 1 is a soft roll out at the end of the epic, year-long Inyo County 150th anniversary celebration next month.

  • In response to a question on the future of the Owens River Water Trail project, Carrunchio provided a new slant. The project, clearing a 6.3-mile stretch of the river from the Narrow Gauge Road to the Keeler Bridge for kayaks and canoes, is grant-funded but in limbo waiting for a site agreement from the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power.

  • In addition to the recreational opportunities, the project would go a long way in solving some of the river’s water quality problems. Some of the major issues, according to Carrunchio, are what to do with the tulles dredged out of the clogged waterway and the environmental documents. LADWP wants an EIR prior to signing a site agreement but theCounty can’t afford to do the EIR without the funding which won’t be released without a site agreement. I think they call that a Catch 22. Carrunchio pointed out that any adaptive management projects on the Lower Owens River Project could be funded equally by the County and LADWP. In other words, the Countydidn’t have to accept the grant funding to get the project done.

  • Carrunchio also questioned whether the project could be completed with the $500,000 grant. In response to e-mail inquiries, the CAO wasn’t sure if an EIR would be required if the project went from a grant-funded project to an adaptive management project. In addition to the initial funding, the Department of Boating and Waters will fund the infrastructure necessary at the input and takeout which would include handicapped access—an element of the project that has generated strong community support. That part of the project would also require an okay from LADWP according to Carrunchio. “All five supervisors support the project,” Kingsley told the South County residents. LADWP’s Aqueduct Manager Jim Yannotta has also said the department supports the project once the details are worked out.

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