The seven-year dispute over the Blackrock 94 parcel north of Independence appears to finally be resolved, as the Inyo/LA Standing Committee, established for dispute resolution under the 1991 Long Term Water Agreement, finally agreed on April 29 that groundwater pumping will be reduced from 12,200 acre-feet to 8,000 acre-feet a year. Part of that reduction will be to the supply for the Blackrock Fish Hatchery.
Inyo County Water Director Dr. Bob Harrington described the resolution as an experiment that will hopefully, with lessened pumping, increase the water table back to or near a level to support vegetation.
The Owens Valley Committee is irked that LADWP continues to deny that its groundwater pumping created the problem at Blackrock, while supporters of the resolution say at least there will finally be less pumping, as well as mitigation on other acres needing attention, and that the decision is an important milestone in the long-standing dispute.
The resolution requires the DWP to restore meadows on 665 acres with prescribed burns, with the agreement that vegetation will be monitored by an independent third-party, the Ecological Society of America (ECSA). The resolution also requires the DWP and Inyo to agree that they will not initiate disputes over Blackrock 94 for at least four years to give these actions time to be assessed.
Inyo County and LADWP will enter into a facilitated process with the ECSA to develop and implement vegetation monitoring procedures and procedures for determining if a measurable change in vegetation has occurred. This is important, as LADWP refused the data collection presented to it by the Inyo County Water Department as unacceptable under the LTWA, a point disputed vigorously by Inyo County.
Although the Owens Valley Committee proposed a different resolution to the Blackrock 94 dispute, saying it may take many years for the water table to recover and that they feel that active restoration efforts might be needed at Blackrock to fully realize its recovery, Dr. Harrington and County legal counsel Greg James felt that the resolution will achieve the desired goals much more quickly than continuing the arbitration process.
The proposal approved by the Standing Committee will now go to the Inyo County Board of Supervisors and the LADWP Commissioners for final approval. It still has to go through a California Environmental Quality Analysis.