Update on Owens Valley Groundwater Authority

By Deb Murphy
The scope of the Owens River basin’s sustainability plan became clearer following a presentation by DBS&A’s Tony Martin at last Thursday’s meeting of the Owens Valley Groundwater Authority.
The consulting firm’s tasks include compiling data, developing a timeline and stakeholder outreach plan and pulling together ecosystem data. The key, it seems, is setting objectives (best case scenarios) and thresholds (worst case) with enough of a spread to keep the Authority from violating its own plan but still get the plan approved by the state Department of Water Resources.
According to Martin, the OVGA can set area-specific criteria, important in light of the diversity of the water demands on the basin.
Martin also responded to the two obvious elephants in the room: the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power, whose portion of the aquifer is exempt from the enabling legislation, the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act, and climate change.
“We need to know what LADWP is doing,” Martin said, “if it impacts what we’re doing. There needs to be communication.”
On climate change, the legislation has that covered: the sustainability plan has to work for the next 50 years, forcing the plan to model potential changes in precipitation and run-off.
The liveliest discussion continued to focus on admitting associate board members, with voting power, and interested parties. Inyo County Water Department Director Aaron Steinwand outlined the details in simply determining interest. A press release has been sent to area media, a letter and statement of interest form will be sent to potential associates and e-mailed to the long list of interested parties.
At earlier meetings, some board members balked at adding voting members to the board. Chairman Fred Stump came out strongly against adding any entity other than area Tribes. Once the existing board sees the extent of interest, it can deal with adding members, a process that has already been outlined in the Joint Powers Agreement signed by all 11 current members.
Bishop resident Phil Anaya questioned the use of the word “may” in relation to considering formal applications. “The wording ‘will’ not ‘may’ says you’re serious about doing this,” he said. Stump reminded Anaya “the board hasn’t made up its mind yet.”
When it came time to discuss future meeting agenda items, Big Pine Community Service District representative BryAnna Vaughan brought up continued funding for the OVGA, a topic looming over the Authority with the realization of higher than anticipated staff costs from Inyo and Mono County personnel.
The board dealt with that issue during the closed session discussion on executive manager, staff and legal counsel contracts.

2 Responses to Update on Owens Valley Groundwater Authority

  1. Trouble January 16, 2019 at 3:53 pm #

    Hey Debra and Phillip,
    I may not always agree with ya, but I sure do appreciate what your doing here! Thanks

  2. Philip Anaya January 15, 2019 at 4:48 pm #

    The inclusion of Associate and Interested Parties onto the Board of the Owens Valley Groundwater Authority goes back to the formation document of the Joint Exercise of Powers Agreement that the current Board Member Entities agreed to and signed. Article V 1.1, Associates, states, “It is the Authority’s intention to include certain entities, to the extent allowed by law and approved by the Authority’s Directors appointed by it’s Members.in Sustainable management of groundwater in the Owens Basin”
    Further in Article V 2.1 Interested Parties, states, The Authority intends to allow other entities that are ineligible to become Associates, or whose applications to become Associates has been denied, or that have chosen not to be an Associate, to participate as an Interested Party as provided for by SGMA section 10727.8 and this Agreement”
    It’s a bit complicated to get into all of this but Article V lays out the process for inclusion of Associate entities including Mutual Water Companies, Tribes, Federal Agencies and the DWP and the process for the inclusion of Interested Parties include, Environmental Groups and other stakeholders to include a broad representation of the population entire Owens Basin, The current make up of the Authority are the Entities who were eligible to form their own individual GSA that would eventually have to come to agreement on a singular GSP for the Basin. These Entities represent only a percentage of the domestic users of the groundwaters in the Basin. To get off to a good/ to a better foundation for this work, the Entities came together through the JPA to form the OVGA. The inclusion, a long time coming, will strengthen the OVGA and provide needed broad representation, experience and expertise to the preparation of the GSP. ( Groundwater Sustainability Plan) The consultant DBS&A who will prepare the plan are not local experts although they will partner with Team Engineering. For additional local knowledge and expertise , the Tribes, the Owens Valley Committee as an example, have something to contribute and it is past time yet not too late for the members of the OVGA to do what they “intended” when they signed up to be part of the Authority. Public participation is a huge part of the SGMA requirements and meetings are hugely inclusive to public participation thanks to the current Authority Members who sometimes have much input to deal with. I hope that soon they will be joined by Associate and Interested Party’s who will share the burden with all the rest of the Owens Basin of achieving groundwater sustainability and insuring there will always be water for our local domestic water needs.


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