OVC supports public access to LORP meetings

lorphighflow.jpgOwens Valley Committee Position on Public Observation at the LORP Summit
After giving MOU parties prior notice, the Owens Valley Committee (OVC) submitted a press release on Wednesday, July 23 inviting the public to observe the proceedings of the upcoming (July 29-31) Lower Owens River Project (LORP) Summit. We noted that space would be limited. On Friday, July 25, the Inyo County Water Department (ICWD) and the LA DWP (Los Angeles Department of Water and Power) submitted their own press releases stating that the LORP River Summit is not open to the public.

The OVC believes it very important that public business be conducted in public unless there is a compelling reason for secrecy. Neither ICWD nor LA DWP has given any such compelling reason.

As a party to the 1997 Memorandum of Understanding (MOU), OVC does not accept the authority of ICWD or LA DWP to deny public access to meetings of the MOU parties.
The OVC repeats its invitation to the public to observe the LORP River Summit on the mornings of July 29 and July 31 at 8:00 am at the DWP office in Bishop. We cannot control what ICWD or LA DWP will do, but OVC will try its best to allow the public to observe the proceedings.

6 Responses to OVC supports public access to LORP meetings

  1. Philip Anaya July 28, 2014 at 6:05 am #

    The OVC has legitimate reason to be concerned with undisclosed LADWP plans (of the extraction nature ) for the LORP and a increased pump back capacity that returns waters to the Aqueduct The project is a environmental mitigation solution and the use of the LORP as a conveyance to extract groundwater from the eastern bank for export would be a devastating change in the LORP. I don’t know, but I think any production wells are subject to the Long Term Water Agreement and the process of application to the Tech and Standing Committees . To the OVC and in reality that in itself is no guarantee what LADWP will do. Jim Yannotta and the DWP are responsible for the decision to change the historic management practices of Bishop Creek just this past year with the additional decision this year to again inflict negative environmental and a economic effects in the Bishop Creek drainage.

    Any increased pump back capacity also needs to look at and address the issue of the LORP becoming a conduit for LADWP water mining in the east bank . Look at Laws as an example of DWP Management. The Whites have a snowpack that I guess benefits the eastern slope of the northern portion of the Valley. The Inyo’s not so much . The eastern slope of the southern portion of the Valley is certainly more vulnerable to the loss of what vegetation is there and we know all to well of the dust that blows there already .

    The LORP Consultants along with the other interested Experts who will meet beginning tomorrow have a great task to find a way for adaptive management to better effect the LORP . If there is a consensus among these folks that additional water and an increase in the Pump back is necessary then strict stipulations regarding the DWP extraction activities in the eastern slope should be adopted and added to the documents that the MOU Parties have to agree to ,and be presented to the Courts. The Pump back issue of the LORP is worthy of Public interest and attendance . The solutions that OVC will offer are also worthy of the public scrutiny . Giving DWP a bigger pump defies normal logic and sense but the LORP and the Valley have the same name and the river should flow again really flow and I think that water flowing in the River is a much better idea than in the Aqueduct ditch. LADWP is only going to increase the flows in the river if they get that bigger pump. I wish they were a bit more trustworthy .

  2. Owens Valley Committee July 27, 2014 at 2:44 pm #

    The Owens Valley Committee supports the right of the people to be aware of ideas and proposals regarding the Lower Owens River Project (LORP).
    The LORP is a compensatory mitigation measure that is supposed to offset the loss of seeps, springs and plants that happened after the Second Aqueduct started exporting pumped water after 1970. LORP was included in the 1991 EIR, and clarified by a Memorandum of Understanding between the County of Inyo, City of Los Angeles, Sierra Club, Carla Scheidlinger, State Lands Commission, California Department of Fish and Wildlife, and the Owens Valley Committee. The LORP also was the subject of its own EIR finalized in 2004.
    Why does this history matter? Because all of these documents are a product of the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA). There are no CEQA police ensuring that mitigation measures or other aspects of CEQA are enforced – it is the PEOPLE that ensure that projects comply with CEQA.

    It is entirely reasonable that the public should observe the upcoming River Summit on July 29-31, 2014. Earlier this year, on January 13, 2014, a short public meeting was held to discuss the environmental conditions of the River and make suggestions for future management. It was standing room only, and many questions and concerns were voiced, but there was not enough time for ideas to be analyzed and incorporated into the adaptive management plan. All concurred that a future River Summit would give an opportunity for ideas to be examined that could help in the restoration of the River.
    In our comments on the 2013 Lower Owens River Project Annual Report, the Owens Valley Committee repeatedly stated that this Summit should be an open forum, allowing interested non-MOU people to participate. This would allow a broad range of people to attend, from school students who have been monitoring conditions since before the flows began, to businesspeople, recreationists, tribal members, and people in our community with firsthand knowledge of complex ecosystem management issues. We are dismayed to be told that the River Summit excludes the public. Surely observation of the proceedings by interested persons will not impede, disrupt, or interfere with the Summit, but will ensure that the public is aware of proposals and any decisions.

    Immediately following the public meeting in January, Northern District Engineer James Yanotta requested a meeting of the MOU parties for the purpose of lifting the pumping limits on the pumpback station at the bottom of the River, and adjusting flows within the River. The OVC is very concerned that increased capacity at the pumpback station could mean increased export of groundwater from the Owens Valley, especially since the DWP has not agreed to eliminate export of water from wells east of the River.
    In preparation for the Summit, OVC members have collaborated with other MOU members to visit critical parts of the River, and the OVC has generated a list of management concepts that do not increase the amount of water used for the River project or require a larger pumpback station.

    It is vital to remember that the lower part of the Owens River is a desert stream in a relatively flat area of the Owens Valley. A restoration of this scale has not been attempted before, and we are only 7 ½ years into the process. Plants, animals, birds, and, yes, tules have regenerated in a river channel that was mostly dry for 93 years. Can adaptive management continue to help the River to stabilize? No one really knows the answer. The high scouring flows of pre-aqueduct days will never occur unless there is a massively wet year, as was experienced in 1969, so we may always contend with tules and the challenges of low oxygen. OVC members are open to ideas that will stabilize the River within the existing water budget, and we look forward to a productive River Summit in the presence of people that are interested in the River and the Owens Valley.

  3. Philip Anaya July 27, 2014 at 1:41 pm #

    One important part of this discussion is missing. Why wasn’t this Meeting planned with the inclusion of the public ? With great respect for the Individuals involved and their respective organizations, there has been a failure for the MOU parties, LADWP, Inyo County WD, the OVC ,the Sierra Club and the California DFW to agree and implement the recommendations of the LORP Consultants for a seasonal habitat flow SINCE 2006 . The seasonal habitat flow may not be the keystone of the success to the recovery of the River but it is a major issue that all the MOU Parties need to finally address for the health of the River. Public participation in the process has been allowed at every meeting addressing the LORP . They even allow people like myself to attend. The inclusion of the public input at all of these meetings whether it’s ideas, demands ,criticism have often been ignored other wise the LORP would be doing better today, but at least the public was allowed the shared information and saw the process in action.
    A LORP Summit venue with the public in attendance is a open process that gives each interested concerned individual the ability to witness the discussion ,the debate ,the issues ,the entire process and maybe witness some positive decisions for the River .

    I want a seasonal habitat flow that meets, even exceeds the Consultants recommendations . If DWP needs a increased Pump back in the Delta to create a healthy River to agree to multiple past years of Consultant Recommendations I would agree to that provided that the ICWD who would be charged with that responsibility, keep an eye on a pump back volume that is compatible with any and all released flows . Maybe the other MOU parties should be on a “LORP Commission” to insure DWP compliance. Best we expect a open accounting and monitoring of the Flows as DWP has not been forthright in it’s history. The MOU parties have to agree to an increased Pump Back activity as they did temporarily last year. How last years Seasonal flow did not get coordinated with the LA Aqueduct maintenance and the resulting fish kill/mosquito invasion just points out why public input is vital to the LORP. “Public Knowledge” of the LORP Management of just this one issue ,the seasonal habitat flow is a factor of the decisions of the MOU parties . Which of these MOU parties would deny the River it’s full potential if their decision was public knowledge if their veto of a recommended seasonal flow did not allow the River to benefit ?They do not rule or own the River . The River that they manage, that they are MOU parties to belongs to us all and mostly belongs to the nature that is the River itself.
    What can the MOU parties possibly discuss/decide at this LORP Summit that will not become self evident in the future management practices of the LORP is a question about this non issue of the health of the LORP. Is the table square , round, a hexagon, do we break eggs at the small or round end. Hate to disagree with Mr. Prather but this LORP Summit should be held in public view and scrutiny and the venue location should have been at the Fairgrounds or the Bishop High School Library.
    Personally I am in LA for the next few weeks with no possibility to attend even if invited . I hope they allow the public and I hope they allow news reports of this LORP Summit

  4. Jane McDonald July 27, 2014 at 11:13 am #

    Let’s all try to keep professional and respectful about legitimate differences in opinion and strategy. Our community has many voices and they all deserve to be heard without disparagement.

  5. Mike Prather July 27, 2014 at 5:19 am #

    Opportunities for the public to be informed and comment on LORP activities are provided throughout each year; however, attendance at next week’s LORP Summit will be limited to lessees and the staff, consultants, representatives of the MOU parties. All MOU parties including OVC will have representatives participating.

  6. Mike Prather, Lone Pine July 26, 2014 at 10:26 pm #

    Where’s the OVC voice of reason and leadership that once existed? This is a true disappointment and irresponsible action by an organization that was once an effective participant in the defense of the Owens Valley. OVC knew this was a meeting of 1997 MOU parties and not a public meeting. Their call for the public to show up irregardless of the purpose of this River Summit is simply reckless. Does this action by OVC give us a glimpse of the future where complete disfunction occurs with the 1997 MOU due to the tail attempting to wag the dog? Sad indeed.


Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.