The Owens Valley Groundwater Authority has been flailing in limbo as the California
Department of Water Resources stood poised to publish the final priority rating for the state’s
groundwater basins, as required by the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA).
Then, in mid-December, the OVGA received word, the priority list had been finalized and the
Owens basin was officially low.
Here’s a little background: High and medium ratings require a Groundwater
Sustainability Plan and all the complications that entails. Low priority ratings let water agencies
off the hook. Those agencies, or organizations of multiple agencies like the OVGA, had the
option, but not the requirement, to develop a plan.
Wheeler Crest Community Service District, basically Swall Meadows in Mono County,
with 43 hook-ups, had already expressed interest in leaving the OVGA if the low priority held.
All of the original 11 agencies were required to divide the cost of the sustainability plan.
Representative Glen Inouye, logically, expressed the fact the cost was disproportionate to the
number of hook-ups. None of the other participating agencies disagreed.
OVGA Chair, Fred Stump, a Mono County supervisor, polled the members at last
Thursday’s meeting. No one bailed out immediately as that decision would be made at each
entities board meetings. There is, however, a good chance the only remaining Mono County
water provider, Tri-Valley Groundwater Management District will opt out.
Mono County picked up the tab for both Wheeler Crest and Tri-Valley’s participation in
The hook to opting out, Inyo County rep Supervisor Dan Totheroh pointed out: both
agencies would still be subject to the requirements of the final plan. While a low priority plan
may not seem onerous, it has been clear from the outset that groundwater basins can be re-
classified in the future.
Any discussion of reimbursements or increased funding levels for the remaining entities
will be taken up at the OVGA’s February meeting.