By Deb Murphy

The most interesting element of Thursday afternoon’s Los Angeles/Inyo County Standing Committee meeting was what wasn’t on the agenda: the Owens River Trail.

The project has been funded to the tune of a half-million dollars through a California River Parkway Grant from the Department of Natural Resources but is stuck with no site agreement between the County and Los Angeles Department of Water and Power. Without that site agreement, no funds will be released.

At the Tech Group meeting earlier this month, County Water Department Director Bob Harrington asked that it be included on the agenda as a discussion item.

While the item didn’t make the agenda, representatives from the LA River Expedition spoke during the public comment portion of the Standing Committee meeting asking for the department’s support.

The organization has provided both support and volunteers on what it sees as the LA River’s sister river since 2013. “Los Angeles needs to be connected,” said co-founder Joel Shapiro. “We passionately hope for your support.”

Randy Short with Wounded Warriors and a member of the Boating and Waterways Commission addressed the committee from LADWP’s Bishop office where the meeting was televised. Once the 6-mile stretch of river trail, starting at Narrow Gauge Road, is completed, the Commission will provide a handicapped-accessible ramp.

“You need to be informed,” said Standing Committee member Mike Prather. “We need the help of (LADWP) staff to move this forward.”

Committee Action

With run-off estimated at 71-percent of normal and Mono Lake levels edging toward the cut-off point precluding any export of water to Los Angeles, the Committee agreed to start planning and discussions early, as early as the proposed February 2 date for the next Committee meeting, just days after the first snow surveys.

The joint vegetation monitoring protocol recommended as part of the Blackrock 94 settlement is nearly complete and ready for the Green Book. LADWP Chief Operating Officer Marty Adams suggested a Committee field trip at a monitoring site in spring/summer of 2017.

“This is not how we should operate. We shouldn’t have to litigate to get here,” said Supervisor Matt Kingsley in reference to the prolonged Blackrock 94 arbitration process.

There was mixed reaction to the field trip proposal, separating the true water nerds from the rest of the population.

The Committee agreed that no water will go to the McNally Pond and pasture mitigation project. Aqueduct Manager Jim Yannotta said City and County staff are talking about optional uses for the water allocations. Prather stressed alternatives should meet the same goals of north valley water fowl habitat and forage.

In reference to the LADWP Commission decision to remove commercial leases from consideration at last Tuesday’s meeting and waving an administrative fee from Inyo County ranch leases, Supervisor Rick Pucci thanked the City representatives. “We need to be more communicative,” he said, “not just about water but also about leases. We’re tied economically.”

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