Local IRWMP shut out of state funding, for now
The Inyo-Mono Integrated Regional Water Management Planning (IRWMP) group remained cautiously optimistic after recently being passed over for all of its Round 1 project implementation grant proposals by California’s Department of Water Resources.
The first of a 3-round disbursal of $600 million in funding was recently completed. 15 proposals were part of the Inyo Mono IRWMP package competing for a cut of $200 million. On May 23, IRWMP Program Director Mark Drew notified the group that DWR’s preliminary recommendations for funding left the local IRWMP high and dry.
Established by local stakeholders through the California Department of Water Resources IRWMP program, the Inyo Mono IRWMP is made up of more than two dozen “members” – signatories to a Memorandum of Understanding – comprising local governments and other organizations to identify and address ”broadly-supported priority water resources projects and programs”.
“The Department of Water Resources (DWR) awarded $25 million to Los Angeles, which gets much of its water from us, and we didn’t get a dime,”Mono Supervisor Larry Johnston groused upon hearing the update during the Board’s regular meeting on Tuesday. Indeed, the Eastern Sierra will supply water to nearly 3 out of every 4 Los Angeles water users.
The Inyo Mono IRWMP wasn’t the only one that got the short end of the stick; at least 7 other IRWMP regions walked away empty handed as well.
One silver lining: the Inyo Mono IRWMP did receive a one-time grant from DWR for $371,000 to provide assistance and build capacity in small, economically disadvantaged communities, which could prove helpful to parts of Inyo County, Antelope Valley, numerous small water districts, and outlying tribal regions. This funding will also be used to work on Round 2 grant funding, including education and workshops on how to better prepare more competitive proposals.
In addition, Drew said a detailed letter was sent to the DWR, making the case that the Inyo Mono IRWMP didn’t agree with all of the findings and criteria used in the preliminary recommendations. “It’s important to note these are preliminary. The IRWMP office put together a vigorous, coordinated effort to generate an appropriate response,” he noted. Accompanying the IRWMP response were by comments and letters from tribes, government, water and utility entities in both counties, and conservation organizations.
“This speaks to the needs of rural districts and we just don’t have the deep pockets here to hire expensive consultants to draft competitive grants,” Drew commented. “But we’re certainly going to be getting better at it.”
During the IRWMP’s regular monthly meeting on Wednesday, Drew explained to the group that the DWR has the ability to pull money from Rounds 2 and 3 at its discretion. Currently there is still $16.5 million remaining in Prop. 84 funding for the Lahontan region, which covers Inyo-Mono and the Tahoe-Sierra, Mojave and Antelope Valley IRWMP regions. The Mojave IRWMP spans two funding regions. While Drew said the downside of pulling money now means potentially diminishing future funding, the Inyo Mono IRWMP would like to get at least something, even if it’s not full funding.
“DWR pulled $1.4 million from Rounds 2 and 3 to fund 90% of Antelope Valley’s projects, so the precedent is already set,” he told the group.
IRWMP Program Manager Holly Alpert added that several IRWMPs were funded at more than their requests, but the funding essentially evened out at $200 million, given that some of the
IRWMPs were either shorted on requests, or passed over altogether.
Final funding recommendations are expected in July. Round 2 requests, meanwhile, won’t be due until sometime during summer 2012.