Standing Committee – framework for reductions collapses

By Deb Murphy

Thursday’s Standing Committee meeting was a riveting tennis match of semantics and legalese. In the end the committee couldn’t agree on a framework for or anything related to reasonable reductions to agriculture which means the status quo is maintained and agricultural leases will get 45,000 acre-feet for irrigation.

The only potential ag losers are those leases dependent on surface water.

LADWP Aqueduct Manager Jim Yannotta indicated the department would come back with a revised plan after the County opted not to accept the original at last Friday’s Technical Group meeting. The revised plan included a chart of historical data and removed reductions to mitigation projects, but the numbers for agriculture stayed the same.

Los Angeles representatives felt their Inyo County counterparts were bound by the Long Term Water Agreement to consider “in good faith” the framework of a program that would have cut ag leases by 30-percent from the 1981 baseline, or 32,676 acre-feet, the lowest allotment since the early 1980s. Inyo County reps agreed they would discuss in good faith but were not bound to agree with the program.

There were a couple of sticking points for the County, including the 65,000 a-f committed to the Owens Lake dust mitigation project, significantly higher than the 47,000-plus a-f used last year. In April, the Great Basin Unified Air Pollution Control Board signed a new State Implementation Plan, the goal of which was reducing dust emissions to 0 and reducing water usage.

Richard Harasick, LADWP’s director of water operations, said the lake “numbers bounce around each year,” and whatever water savings were realized during the 2016-17 runoff year would go to Los Angeles, on top of the proposed 113,853 already outlined in the department’s operations plan. Harasick also indicated, if the County agreed to the framework, the numbers would be reset and there would be no ag irrigation reductions.

Presumably, the 12,000-plus a-f not used for irrigation under the proposed plan would also go to Los Angeles, though that volume was not included in the 113,853 a-f.

The framework identified “below normal,” “dry,” and “critical dry” years based on percentage of runoff. It also indicated percentages of reductions based on the number of consecutive years for each type of year.

According to that framework, ag would drop by 30-percent.
Harasick told the committee, LADWP would agree to reset the clock for this year, providing full available ag allotments, if the County would approve the framework.

The County wouldn’t approve the framework, a move that also provides 45,000 a-f for agricultural leases.

That’s the bottom line but it didn’t keep committee members and city and county staff from making additional points.

Harasick cited the Long Term Water Agreement’s statement that a program of reasonable reduction “may” be implemented during dry years.

County Water Department Director Bob Harrington cited the agreement’s EIR stating that the 11,600 acres in agricultural leases would receive 5 a-f of water per acre “even in dry years.”

County Counsel Marshall Rudolph’s interpretation was that the “may” was discretionary.

According to County Administrative Officer Kevin Carunchio, runoff conditions could be described as dry 12 times since 1985 during which agricultural water stayed around 90-percent. But, that was before other LADWP obligations responded Harasick and Aqueduct Manager Jim Yannotta.

Carunchio reminded the department, Owens Lake was its doing and not related to the Long Term Water Agreement, a point LADWP has used to avoid committing savings for in-valley uses.

LADWP’s attorney David Edwards said the County representatives “couldn’t withhold consent just because you can.” Supervisor Rick Pucci said “these aren’t just numbers, they are impacts to our people. Ranchers and farmers have to deal with Mother Nature but here we have to deal with Mother Nature and LADWP.”

Supervisor Matt Kingsley made a motion recommending areas of in-valley water cuts and that staff continue to discuss a feasible framework.

That launched an extended discussion by Edwards as to what the motion was, a “program” or “recommendation to staff.” Rudolph’s response” “it is what it is – it’s a motion in the spirit of continuing the conversation.”

When Carunchio asked Edwards how the agreement defined “a program,” Edwards had to admit the agreement offered no definition.

An element of Kingsley’s motion involved “equitable management” of Bishop Creek runoff, regulated by the Chandler Decree. Yannotta said LADWP had no control over Bishop Creek flows, which were within the purview of Southern California Edison. But, as Harrington pointed out, last year, the department required a similar motion before entering into discussions with SCE to alter flows.

After a break, Los Angeles City Councilman Felipe Fuentes indicated the City would not vote on the motion.

Kingsley came up with another one, referring to the in-valley uses pie chart in the department’s annual operations plan and unused Owens Lake water exported to Los Angeles. The pie chart outlines how 161,600 a-f will be divided among valley uses, including the 65,000 a-f for the lake.

Since no one really believed all 65,000 a-f would actually go on the lake, Kingsley’s motion would subtract what wouldn’t be used on the lake from the “Owens Lake” category, but would keep the 161,600 a-f intact for valley uses.

Basically, it was a clever way to keep the savings in Owens Valley. Edwards repeated the mantra that Owens Lake activity was outside the purview of the Standing Committee and Los Angeles wouldn’t vote on the motion.

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19 Responses to Standing Committee – framework for reductions collapses

  1. V. McManis May 18, 2016 at 5:28 am #

    Looking at the 2010 Rand McNally road map, I see that the 2010 population of Cal. was 36 and a half million known residents. That would be before the current immigration surge and a lot of young families having more than two kids. So at this growth rate, just what good does saving a little water do? Funny how everybody just keeps dancing around the real culprit. Must be too politically incorrect to mention. Huh, is this an election year?

  2. Philip Anaya May 17, 2016 at 7:14 am #

    Thank You Bob L. for the input regarding the Lakes . Whether man made or not, the water that could fill them goes to Los Angeles. Here is a great narrative.

    The Chandler Decree requires SCE to release prescribed flow amounts on a schedule from Bishop Creek below plant 6 . DWP has acquired the rights and receives these waters . The Chandler Flows, 33,000 acre feet annually , are managed by the DWP for irrigation to it’s lands in the Cone and to maintain Bishop Creek for the Tribe and fish in the stream. DWP in the Bishop Cone again benefiting from the requirements of an adjudication, the Hillside Decree is allowed to extract through pumping and artesian wells the same or less amount of water that they apply to their lands in the Bishop Cone. In rough mean average numbers it can be said that DWP uses 20,000 AF in the Cone and extracts about 12,500 AF . The flows from Bishop Creek make up the difference for water designated for the Bishop Cone DWP lands. The rest of the water goes into the Owens River, a good portion exported to Los Angeles .
    While DWP neither owns either South or Sabrina they in essence control the water .
    There is both environmental and economic impacts of DWP’s part of the operations of Bishop Creek . Just look at the result of the 2013 and 2014 DWP management of the surface flow below Plant 6. With the Chandler Flow regimen the ditch system of the Bishop Creek Water Ass. for the first time in it’s history began drying up during the late summer of 2013 and by December when DWP had explained that there was no more water, shallow domestic private wells started going dry in West Bishop . Monitoring well T389 just off Barlow Lane just north of Sunset Park had dropped 17 feet . Inyo County Water Dept Director Dr. Bob Harrington presented a study that showed that surface flow in West Bishop is an important part of the recharge of the Aquifer and even with that knowledge the DWP in a next year of drought repeated it’s surface flow management, ditches again went dry and there were more affected private wells. There has also been aftermath effects of the disruption of the Aquifer in West Bishop and it is still going on today with some varied flooding, even under homes, from the horizontal spread and the lack of infliltration from the rewatered ditch system. This past year in July 2015, SCE reduced the Chandler Flows back to a more “historic level” and the cooperative management with DWP and Inyo County somewhat maintained water in the ditche system, maintaining the water table. That management decision was a winner.
    This year with a current predicted 71% runoff, I’ve heard the number 39,000 AF down Bishop Creek This April at the beginning of the irrigation season so far SCE is releasing the Chandler required flows. 39,000 AF (runoff) less 33,000 (Chandler) leaves 6,000 AF for storage in South and Sabrina for the end of the Chandler period the last of September . Hope it is accurate that I have heard that South has a capacity of 12,500 AF and Sabrina has 7,500. That’s 20,000 AF. So if there is only 6,000 AF left in these Lakes they will be less than half full by October 2016. It’s complicated and is the ugly reality that the environment of Bishop Creek and the economic impact that it has to our limited economy must endure .
    Instead of “empty”, emptied would have been a more accurate description of these two lakes and South and Sabrina while not owned, in reality, are controlled by the DWP. The presence of the DWP in the Eastern Sierra is certainly multi faced and their future needs to become a more reasonable cooperative partnership with the lands and the people who are here. Inyo County is doing their part in that endeavor . DWP has the public relations going with fair words and the published and broadcasted reminders of the good things they do here . Going into the future is the hope that the fair words become reality and that everyone will see more good things , more sustainabilty with their operations . For the Bishop Creek Basin why can’t there be Lakes in October, Lakes that are half full . DWP with SCE can make that happen all for the best reasons but they have get off the mark ASAP. Runoff is
    predicted at 71% of mean average normal . How about a consideration of a 29% reduction in the Chandler Flows for a start ? How about that to make an ugly face shine ?

  3. Bullfrog93 May 17, 2016 at 5:11 am #

    As long as there is enough water for our medical marijuana plants, it’s all good, that’s all that matters, God bless America

  4. Philip Anaya May 16, 2016 at 8:08 am #

    The many faces of the DWP here in the Eastern Sierra have an effect on the landscape and on us all . One face is the great result of their land ownership. We get open space, we get access to a large degree. Well turn that face around and then there are well fields and ditches and pumps running, too much water headed south to LA . If we could see the below the surface, see the water levels like we can see the empty Mono, Crowley, South and Sabrina Lakes then we could see quite an ugly face , lying eyes , quite an ugly story.
    The Standing Committee was again both good and bad news. The bad news is simple to state. LADWP literally sucks. They want and try to take every drop possible for Los Angeles . They are paid to well to do it and they have stacked the deck, made the rules in many of these last 100 years. They are after 100 years are still targeting the water for the Ranchers as they offered a matrix of irrigation reductions and they offered the words “fair and reasonable” with a description of what they do. Bad news in light of the fact that after 100 years they seem to not have learned a thing about becoming sustainable or that there is now a process where Inyo decides Irrigation and Mitgation Project reductions.
    The good news is that there is a Inyo County Board of Supervisors that represents and is responsive to it’s constituants. Inyo County is hearing the folks loud and clear who stand up for the Valley, it’s environment, it’s economic survival. If anyone wants to be a part of the process for a sustainable Inyo County the door is open and there is a welcome mat in place. Consider wiping your feet kinda and know that there are folks in the room who do have a hand on the pulse of what’s going on. Not only is everyone welcome to come in and set a spell, everyone is invited to particpate. These folks in the room are standing on the shoulders of folks who hacked out the LTWA, who got the LORP rewatered and got a lot dust simmered down on Owens Lake. Maybe come to Meetings. Bite off a portion of what needs to be learned and understood , what needs to be said , what needs to be done to support each other, to support the Inyo County Board of Supervisors, the Water Department, the Water Commission and the County Counsel. These folks who are charged with the responsibilty of being our representitives in this seemimgly never ending saga with the DWP in the Eastern Sierra are standing strong and standing tall. The works of the next 100 years begin once again each and every morning and many around here are not going quietly into that future.

    • Bob Loblaw May 16, 2016 at 1:30 pm #

      For the record, three of the four lakes you’ve mentioned as being empty are man made. For that matter, South Lake and Sabrina are neither owned nor controlled by LADWP. Mono Lake however is a fair point.

  5. MJA May 15, 2016 at 5:49 am #

    No matter how much they talk about it, there aint enough water to go round. =

  6. Trouble May 14, 2016 at 4:42 pm #

    Desco, you are forgetting that DWP basically lied cheated and stole this land from many of our neighbors relatives.

    • DESCO May 15, 2016 at 5:27 pm #

      Trouble, and others
      I suggest you find and read a copy of “The Water Seekers” by Remi Nadeau. Mine is the 1997 update. Cadillac Desert is another good one. My copy seems to have gone the way of all things. Water Seekers is unbiased, documented and reads like a novel. Only the informed can have an intelligent conversation. But, all conversations are based on opinions. Opinions based on emotion, personal perceptions based on who knows what, and hundred year old oft repeated tales, don’t count for much.

      • Trouble May 17, 2016 at 7:59 am #

        Sorry Desco, but I’m not looking for marriage counciling when it comes to DWP.

        • DESCO May 17, 2016 at 4:45 pm #

          Not counseling T, I just thought some education might relieve you of some of that excess bile you carry around.
          Youth ages, immaturity is outgrown, ignorance can be educated, and drunkenness sobered, but stupid lasts forever.”

      • Pedro May 17, 2016 at 8:44 pm #

        Get out and also read some petroglyphs to further inform the conversation.

  7. DESCO May 14, 2016 at 1:38 pm #

    The three drunks don’t own Death Valley.
    Like it or not LADWP owns the Owens Valley. That doesn’t make it right. That’s why we have agreements, programs,committees and the courts to sort it all out.
    One group reads an agreement and sees one thing. Another group reads the same agreement and sees another. They are called opinions and, like a part of the human anatomy, everybody has one. The more groups, the more opinions and finally the courts will have an opinion that becomes law. Then nobody will be happy.

  8. Low-Inyo May 13, 2016 at 7:18 pm #

    Sandy Justice : Just try to remember….if it weren’t for LADWP,a good bet our Owens Valley would look a lot like the Antelope Valley (the one south,not the one up by Coleville)…and the good thing about it is,it will remain that way for a very long time….no mass home building and not much of a population increase…

    • Presto May 15, 2016 at 1:22 pm #

      Thanks slow inyo. I’m not sure where comment section would be without your valuable insightful knowledge of this wonderful County.

      You are definitely one of the reasons I visit this site as often as I do. I will continue to be a daily visitor to and will always scroll to the new comments on the front page and look to see your new comment on Current Events.

      The more I learn from you the more I’m leaning to vote Democratic, and vote for Hillary Rodham Clinton for POTUS this November. If she chooses Elizabeth Pocahontas Warren, then I’m all-in.

      It will make this 1/4 blood Native American so very proud. Democratic Party is the only true gender, color blind, oops! almost forgot the trans-gender folks, political party we have.


      Please don’t boycott Target stores. And thank you California for making smoking illegal till 21 years of age. I would also like California pass a new gun law where your only allowed a clip of 2 bullets. 7 ,8, 9, or 16 bullet clips is blasphemy!

      1 bullet clips for all persons with zero felonies and a minimum FICO score 620.

    • Charles O. Jones May 15, 2016 at 2:52 pm #

      Or it might look a lot like the Central Valley on west side of the Sierra. Large scale industrial agriculture and lots of private land with “NO TRESPASSING” signs. I view the LADWP as the lesser of two evils. Yeah they take A LOT of water away from the region. But they also keep very large swaths of land virtually untouched and open for public use. Inyo and Mono counties would be very different without the DWP. And I seriously doubt it would be better than it is now.

      • Tinner May 17, 2016 at 3:09 pm #

        Gotta agree with you on that Charles.
        Oooh, I hate it when signs yell at me, “NO TRESPASSING” “KEEP OUT” “PRIVATE PROPERTY”

  9. Sandy Justice May 13, 2016 at 12:45 pm #

    How is it that DWP can rape and destroy the entire Owens Valley without one person going to jail. But 3 drunks kill one Death Valley Pupfish and it is a all out man hunt to bring them to justice!

    It is time for those that make these bad decisions at LADWP to held to the same standard.

  10. DESCO May 13, 2016 at 12:09 pm #

    Committee’s, plans, mitigations, agreements, groups, boards, programs, etc. etc. etc.
    Does anyone even PRETEND to know or understand what’s going on?

    • Bob May 14, 2016 at 10:11 am #

      Follow the money


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