By Deb Murphy

Alabama Hills National Scenic Area Designation

The Alabama Hills’ is half-way to reaching its National Scenic Area designation and Inyo County’s Board of Supervisors and Kevin Mazzu of the Alabama Hills Stewardship Group are trying to execute an end game to make it official—eight years after the effort started.

Congressman Paul Cook championed the cause, getting HR 496 passed in the House. The designation was attached to Sen. Dianne Feinstein’s California Desert Conservation and Recreation Bill where it has languished.

The Supervisors voted to send a letter to the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee chair to delink the designation element from the desert bill and send it to the Senate as stand-alone legislation.

Representing the Alabama Hills Stewardship group, Kevin Mazzu provided the effort’s back story. The idea was brought to Feinstein’s attention in 2007 by a nature photographer. Her staff’s response was for local residents to begin a local grassroots effort. Mazzu and roughly 70 stakeholders and supporters of the National Scenic Area designation responded in spades. “I’m optimistic we can get this bill passed in the Senate,” Mazzu said.

Both Mazzu and 5th District Supervisor Matt Kingsley have made inroads in D.C. with both Feinstein’s legislative aid Kenneth Rooney and Washington Senator Maria Cantwell a senior member of the Energy and Natural Resources Committee, who Kingsley said had deep roots in the Owens Valley,

In addition to the letter, Kingsley will set up a conference call with Rooney to get the job done.

State Office of Emergency Services May Help with Answer to West Bishop Water Issues

Month after month, the Board has voted to continue the “Land of Even Less Water Emergency.” But, Tuesday there was a new twist.

Water Department Director Bob Harrington and County Administrative Officer Kevin Carrunchio have requested the California Office of Emergency Services provide technical assistance in figuring out what’s going on in West Bishop. “The (drought) emergency is in place,” said Carrunchio during the Board meeting, “and this goes beyond our resources.”

The “this” Carrunchio referred to is the rising water table invading West Bishop basements and running down streets, a condition that literally surfaced in the spring of 2014, after the area’s ditch system was left dry for lack of water storage in high country reservoirs.

The request asks for help “in assessing the causes and what can be done” to correct the situation, Harrington said in a phone interview. “There are different processes in play,” he said. “To mitigate the situation, we have to figure out what’s causing it. There’s a lot of complexity. We have high aquifers with wells failing nearby.”

Despite the fact the area has a history of high water tables, Harrington said there has never been water in people’s basements before the drought.

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