By Deb Murphy
After skipping its February meeting to figure out staffing, the Owens Valley Groundwater Authority had a chance to mull over its draft budget for this fiscal year.
This budget takes into consideration some unknowns when the initial budget was developed prior to the official formation of the Authority. The biggest unknown was the grant application to cover the consultant’s cost to come up with a Groundwater Sustainability Plan. The OVGA got the grant and will now use member contributions to cover staff and other miscellaneous costs.
The Authority has requested an advance on its grant from Proposition 1 funds amounting to half of the total or $334,115. The request went in early February but the California Department of Water Resources has 60 days to decide whether to issue the advance.
The big budget item to come out of member contributions is staff services at $102,500. Only $13,000 estimated for grant administration will be covered by DWR funds. While the division of labor still has to be agreed to in closed session, half of the total will go to Inyo County staff for management, legal and financial services with Mono in for $33,000 for administrative and legal services and Bishop in at $5,500 for administrative services.
The draft budget also includes $39,520 for professional services from former Water Department Director Bob Harrington. “Bob knows this basin better than anyone,” current Director Aaron Steinwand told the board. “He’ll make sure the consultant gets off on the right foot.” The board agreed.
However, the Authority still hasn’t come to grips with additional board members or to what degree other entities, like mutual water companies, tribes and environmental groups, can participate.
Two water companies and the Lone Pine Paiute-Shoshone Reservation submitted statements of interest to be accepted as Associates. Two government entities, two businesses and two environmental groups also submitted statements to be included as Interested Parties.
Once again, Mono County Community Development Director Wendy Sugimura gave a presentation outlining possibilities that ranged from board member status to participation in advisory committees.
The Joint Powers Agreement seemed to allow for inclusion of all of the above with varying voting power. Sugimura’s interpretation of the JPA, however, allowed for no inclusion on the board.
The board was just as split on including additional entities at the table as it has been for the last six months.