By Deb Murphy

Monday’s Technical Group meeting gave valley water watchers a sneak preview of the Standing Committee meeting slated for October 27. Following a series of project updates, the group ran through the committee agenda—the standard reports with a few potential land mines.

The group, staff from the County Water Department and Los Angeles Department of Water and Power, was established by the Long Term Water Agreement.
First, the land mines: alternatives for water not delivered to the McNally Ponds and a discussion of the Owens River Trail project.

The ponds have been under discussion for years. Initially, an agreement mitigation project, the ponds have been left high and dry due to a problem getting the water to the site or due to low run-off, whichever applied on any given year. The Inyo County Water Commission has strongly recommended the McNally water allotment simply be applied to another project. When county reps on the Standing Committee delivered that message it fell flat.

Since the agreement requires any adjustment to mitigation water supplies be approved by the committee, McNally will be on the October 27 agenda. Inyo Water Department Director Bob Harrington added “with a report on alternatives for use of the water.”

Harrington also asked for a discussion of the Owens River Water Trail project be included. The grant-funded project will open up a stretch of the Lower Owens River for canoe and kayak use with the potential addition of a handicapped-accessible ramp funded by the California Boating and Waterways Commission. Step one: a site agreement between Inyo and the LADWP.

The two departments have been working on that agreement since mid-summer. Following the meeting, LADWP Aqueduct Manager Jim Yannotta said there were still issues to be resolved. According to County Mitigation Project Manager Larry Freilich, long-term maintenance is at the top of that list.

Other items under discussion by the Tech Group: a joint vegetation monitoring program required by the Blackrock 94 settlement, a jointly compiled report on on-going mitigation projects that will show disagreements on progress between the City and the County.

LADWP also reported on tests at one of the controversial Five Bridges wells, ordered permanently shut off in the mid-1980s. The department has modified two of those wells to draw from deep aquifers at a rate of 2.8 cubic feet per second, down from the previous 16.5 cfs.

According to the department, the test plan includes triggers to avoid any negative impact as well as Department of Fish and Wildlife concerns for the integrity of Fish Slough. “We need to test for the CEQA (California Environmental Quality Act) docs,” said Yannotta, “to determine long-term impacts.”

Mitigation for negative groundwater pumping impacts at Five Bridges is in the process of modifications, but has yet to heal those impacts over the last 30 years.
The County Water Commission will cover a similar agenda at its meeting, 6 p.m., Friday at Jill Kinmont Boothe School.

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