On Tuesday, Mono County was caught off-guard when it opened bids for an irrigation pipeline project at the Conway Ranch Fish Hatchery. The pipeline would replace an open irrigation ditch and create a safe way to bring water from Wilson Creek to the hatchery, according to John Frederickson of Inland Aquaculture Group.
“The bids came in at more than the County was expecting,” Frederickson said. When another similar pipeline was put in four years ago it cost somewhere between $25,000-$30,000. This time around the County was expecting $40,000-$60,000, according to Frederickson, so when the actual bids came in ranging between $90,000-$300,000, they weren’t prepared.
In an email sent to bidders on Oct. 18, Garrett Higerd, Associate Engineer for the County stated, “Due to insufficient funds, and because of the short weather window, it is unlikely that a contract will be awarded this year.”
The project should have been completed four years ago along with the first one mentioned above, but “it became tied up in bureaucratic red tape,” Frederickson said. “There was an easement issue between the County and LADWP, which has finally been straightened out after four years.” But now the cost is prohibitive.
Last winter the water in the irrigation ditch in question froze up and Conway Ranch lost thousands of fish. The purpose of the pipeline is to keep the water from freezing. It also helps eliminate pathogens from getting in to the fish.
Without the pipeline this winter, Conway will shut down two of the raceways in order to avoid losing fish again. However, closed raceways will also limit the amount of fish that can be raised at the Ranch, which means the amount of fish available from Conway Ranch next summer will be reduced, Frederickson said.