Earlier this month, CalTrout’s Mark Drew, the organization’s eyes and ears on the Inyo Mono Integrated Regional Water Management Project (IRWMP) board, announced that the completed Inyo-Mono Plan and Round 1 Project Implementation Application had been successfully uploaded into the state’s Department of Water Resources (DWR) Bond Management System.
Of the more than 25 projects originally considered, 15 were submitted for Round 1; however, Mono County’s delegate, Tony Dublino, told the Board of Supervisors during its regular meeting this past Tuesday that three Mono County-sponsored projects were left off the list.
That leaves zero Mono County-sponsored projects still in consideration.
IRWMP is comprised of upwards of 40 signatories including Mono and Inyo Counties located along the 395 corridor from Ridgecrest to Bridgeport.
According to Drew, the Implementation Application requests a total of $4,299,858 with a match commitment of $1,400,409 (a mixture of cash and in-kind services from the project proponents) for a total Round 1 Implementation budget of $5,700,267. The IRWMP’s match is exactly 25%.
Drew claims that the Implementation Application’s combined Benefit/Cost ratio amounts to more than $11 of benefits for every $1 invested in regional projects.
Dublino said the decision to not include the County’s projects in this round was made largely due to complications with both the DWR requirements and conflicts with the makeup of the projects.
One of the three projects, a “Safe Water Systems” item that the board had ranked at #4, involved a “package” of several smaller projects that was ideally to be submitted as one item. The money would then have been doled out to each project.
DWR, however, said it would expect each individual project to have full-blown, extensive reports on each one, essentially sending the idea back to square one. Staff time and other costs involved in researching all the background, pieces and parts would rival, and likely exceed the cost of the entire project itself.
Another problem identified was “underestimation” by some individual project proponents. One project (for example) had an estimated price tag of $10,000 for an item in a safe water systems project that might’ve ended up costing $100,000.
Researching and retooling so many of the projects so late in the process was deemed impractical. “At that point I made the decision to pull the plug,” Dublino told the Board.
One thing Dublino determined, however, was that the state has [whether inadvertently or not] created a program that doesn’t recognize the needs of smaller, rural areas such as Mono County’s.
One of the best examples is the Crowley Lake Mutual Water Company (CLMWC), which has been having permitting and other operational issues in getting its new well and associated water tank online, leading to a potential water availability crisis. The Mountain Meadows Mutual Water Company signed on to the IRWMP, but Crowley’s did not.
With the County being lobbied by the CLMWC for assistance, Dublino said that the IRWMP is discussing drafting a letter to DWR to talk about how to help such modest water districts with economies of scale issues to resolve problems that are critical to district users and customers. Deputy County Counsel Stacey Simon suggested asking DWR to streamline a process for grant requests under a certain dollar amount.
Mono County, however, does have some projects in consideration for funding. An Eastern Sierra Unified School District project, ranked at #2, is for a complete, state-of-the-art, ion-exchange water system for Coleville High School. Other projects located within Mono County (though sponsored by entities other than the County) include Water Meter installation and Wastewater Treatment Plant upgrades in June Lake, a New Hilltop Well for Wheeler Crest Community Services District, the first phase of Well Rehabilitation for Mammoth Community Water District, and the Town of Mammoth Lakes has a “Stormwater Master Plan Development and Implementation” project in contention as well.
Inyo-Mono IRWMP’s Holly Alpert said that there is considerable competition for the grant funds within the region. Antelope Valley’s IRWMP, for instance, has submitted packages totaling the full $6 million available, hoping to shut out the rest of the competition. Alpert said, however, that some of the Inyo-Mono projects, such as the Coleville project, look very good, and added that this is just part 1 of the funding process.
“This has been quite an endeavor to say the least,” Drew commented. “The fact that we were able to successfully complete the Planning Grant Application in late September, complete, approve and submit the first Inyo-Mono IRWM Plan as well as complete and submit the Inyo-Mono IRWMP Round 1 Project Implementation Application [by the deadline] is a testament to the commitment and belief, on the part of those involved, in the Inyo-Mono Regional Water Management Group.”
The next Regional Water Management Group meeting is set for this coming Wednesday, Jan. 26, at 1 p.m. in the Mammoth Community Water District Board room.
Supervisors to hold
South County meetings
The Board also voted in favor of changing the third meeting of the month location to Mammoth Lakes. A trial period of 1 year, as opposed to the 3-month period tried last year, was agreed to 3-2, with Hazard and Hansen dissenting. Hazard took issue with the attendance in Mammoth, which he said didn’t warrant the move. Hansen suggested that keeping the meeting in Bridgeport was good for the local economy there overall. Supervisors Vikki Bauer and Byng Hunt, however, suggested that three months wasn’t enough time to make a definitive determination, the former suggesting at least one year, and the latter adding he’d be fine with as much as three years.