OVGA meetings get interesting

By Deb Murphy

Owens Valley Groundwater Authority meetings are a little like watching a chess match. Not really adrenaline inducing, but there’s a lot going on between moves.

Last Thursday’s meeting is a good example.

The question before the 11-member board dealt with the re-prioritization of the Owens Valley basin from medium to high—a new wrinkle from the Department of Water Resources to slam a 42-point whammy on basins that export water.

The exporter of that water, Los Angeles Department of Water and Power, requested DWR take a second look since that portion of the basin under LA-owned lands is being managed by the Long Term Water Agreement and, as such, is exempt from the Sustainable Groundwater Act. LADWP’s conclusion would demote the basin from its current “medium” to “low” status.

Inyo County, while not agreeing completely with LADWP’s arguments, asked the board for input on an Authority letter. There is little difference between medium and high basins, both require the formation of managing agencies and sustainability plans. The gap between medium and low is huge. Low priority basins can but don’t have to develop sustainability plans.

According to Water Department Director Bob Harrington, if the basin were re-classified as low the board could go ahead and develop its grant-funded plan or it could disband. The big issue: LADWP’s water exportation out of the basin would be the justification for the high priority but the little water agencies would be footing the bill.

Then vocal community member Philip Anaya pointed out the Authority should be going for a high priority to best hold DWP’s feet to the fire in terms of water sustainability in the valley. Mono County’s Wendy Sugimura, senior analyst, fully understood Anaya’s comment. “We should want to be a high priority basin.”

Wheeler Crest’s Community Service District rep Glenn Inouye didn’t agree. His district includes 43 residents. Neither did Indian Creek CSD’s alternate Ted Williams. “We had to raise our rates 40-percent to pay for this,” he said.

Inyo County rep Dan Totheroh wanted more information. “If we’re a low priority basin, the workload will be less,” he said. “But some think DWP will better manage the basin if the OVGA stays alive. What about the water pumped by DWP that impacts non-adjudicated portions of the basin. I want to know the impact of either high or low.”

However, as Chair Fred Stump put it, the Authority has not hook to force DWP to mitigate its pumping impacts beyond its boundary. Totheroh has the simple answer. “If we can’t be sustainable under SGMA, we go back through the courts and change the Long Term Water Agreement.”

County staff will come back at the Authority’s August 9 meeting with an analysis of the two alternatives, draft letter and look at the prospect of funding for mitigation if the basin ends up with a high priority determination.

The other issue under discussion was LADWP’s request its portion of the basin be removed from the basin boundaries, a suggestion the Authority found illogical. Starlite CSD representative Daniel Cutshall read his own response, basically stating while the land was bound by boundary lines, the water underneath it wasn’t.

2 Responses to OVGA meetings get interesting

  1. Philip Anaya July 18, 2018 at 1:06 pm #

    Sorry for the incorrect link to LADWP’s prioritization Letter . Try this one and look for Mark Ching LADWP 2018-06-28 on the list. You will need to click on view comment


  2. Philip Anaya July 17, 2018 at 5:29 pm #

    Public participation in SGMA is acknowledge , encouraged and supported both by the California Department of Water Resources, the administrator of SGMA and by the Owens Valley Groundwater Authority, the local Groundwater Sustainability Agency (GSA) charged with responsibility to craft our local Groundwater Sustainability Plan (GSP). A GSP is required in the Owens Valley as it was in 2014 designated a Medium Priority Endangered Basin. Another requirement is that the Owens Basin in the non adjudicated portion of the Basin must be sustainable by 2042. DWP lands are also included in the Owens Basin but there is the Long Term Water Agreement (LTWA) that was in place prior to the enactment of SGMA so those City Lands in the Basin are referred to the Adjudicated portion of the Basin and are required to submit Annual Reports to the CDWR.
    The CDWR has determined that both the Adjudicated and the Non Adjudicated portions of the Basin make up the Owens Basin and due to export they refer to it as the transfer of groundwater they have upgraded the designation of the entire Basin to High Priority. DWP is not happy with this decision by CDWR and they have submitted the following comment during the public comment period that closes August 20, 2018


    DWP states in it’s letter that SGMA ” does not apply to Adjudicated Basins and such Basins should not be included as part of the Basin prioritization process” . The problem is that the Owens Basin is not a Adjudicated Basin . It is a Basin that has both Adjudicated and Non adjudicated portions and is subject to the Basin Prioritization Process. Page 1 of the DWP letter also states that the OVGB is one of the ” best manage basins in California” but maybe that would only would be true if the export of water and the “miracle” of the Aqueduct were considered. Considering the eight criteria that address the need of sustainability in the Basin maybe DWP needs to consider that there are nearly 4 million people in Los Angeles that need sustainability in the Owens Basin to insure a continued water supply at a reasonable expense that does not need to include wasteful dollars spent on mitigation projects for DWP self inflicted damage to the environment and lawyers who take the rate payer for every dime for unsustainable management decisions and practices. The DWP finally has an Authority looking over their shoulder and they are not happy and they are in denial about all of this .
    So the OVGA has four options with the 2018 prioritization . #1 Do Nothing #2 support the High priority designation #3 ask for the continuation of the Medium Priority designation, all three a partnership with the CDWR or they can reject the CDWR, partner up with the LADWP and #4
    ask CDWR for a low Priority designation which would mean an end to SGMA as we know it in the Owens Basin and the end of “Destination 2042″my nomination for a subtitle of the GSP yet to be crafted and the end of the 2042 sustainability requirement in the Owens Basin that accompanies a medium or a high priority basin but not a low, a dream come true for the LADWP .
    SGMA in the Owens Basin is a hope for the future of sustainability and possible DWP Stewardship of it’s lands in the Owens Valley. Low Priority is no Priority and zero hope for our Valley .


Leave a Reply

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