The Owens Valley Groundwater Authority has set up what seems like a permanent residence in Limbo—still no final word on how the California Department of Water Resources has prioritized the valley’s aquifer.
While the basin went from medium to low last spring that designation has not been finalized. The deadline for medium Groundwater Sustainability Plans is still early 2022.
In a nutshell: The Owens Valley aquifer was prioritized as a medium basin, setting in motion deadlines and requirements for developing a sustainability plan. Last spring DWR tentatively reclassified the basin as low—with no obligations at all.
The brakes have been tapped on the plan consulting firm, Daniel B. Stephens & Associates and the last few OVGA meetings have dealt with all the “what ifs.”
It gets more complicated: The OVGA received grant funding for the plan. If the Authority opts out of the process, the grant money goes back to the state. According to Inyo Water Department Director Aaron Steinwand, the grant funds haven’t been touched. Payments to the consultant have all come from member agency contributions.
The OVGA Board was asked if the basin status stays at low, does the Authority proceed with a plan. Wheeler Crest, with only 43 water hook-ups, wanted out. The other eight entities wanted to continue with the plan development even if the low priority was, eventually, finalized.
Big Pine Community Service District’s representative summed up that decision: “Now we can start talking about water,” she said. “We’ll deal with the what if’s when they’re real.”
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