On Wednesday April 8, Phill Kiddoo was sworn in as the new Great Basin Unified Air Pollution Control District Officer. The former Officer, Ted Schade, retired in December after 24 years.
The son of a born-and-bred Mammoth local Mom and a “ski-bum” Dad, Kiddoo, 40, was born in Bishop and grew up in Mammoth. After some of the bigger winters in the 1980s, his parents decided to get out of the snow. “We didn’t make it very far,” Kiddoo said, as the family moved to Bishop.
Kiddoo met his wife, Brenda who grew up in the Tri-Valley, while attending Bishop High School— a surprise since “I thought I knew everybody by the third grade,” he said. They have two sons currently attending Bishop High.
Kiddoo earned two science degrees in physiology and zoology from UC Santa Barbara, before spending a year in medical school in Guadalajara, Mexico.
But before heading off to Guadalajara, Kiddoo worked as an intern for White Mountain Research Station. “That’s where I learned from the likes of Phil Pister, Jon Weyhausen, and Don Sada,” he said. “That was the point in my life that I decided I didn’t want to be a doctor but I really wanted to work for environmental causes. It really was a change in my philosophy and what I felt was important.”
Kiddoo also attributes life in the Eastern Sierra for his love of the environment. “I spent weeks on end in the backcountry fishing and skiing,” he said. And after running cross-country in high school, Kiddoo has completed several hundred mile races around the country. Now, he is an “avid peak bagger, ticking away at the Sierra’s peak list, the California 100 list,” he said.
After leaving medical school, Kiddoo worked at the Department of Fish and Wildlife High Mountain Lakes Project for five years—a job he loved. However, “It was a seasonal job. With two little boys at home, I needed to know that I could feed them in the off-season, not just hope,” he said.
Responding to an ad in the paper, Kiddoo was hired as an entry-level data systems research analyst at Great Basin over ten years ago. He was then promoted to senior systems research analyst, taking on more management responsibilities while supervising three other analysts.
During his time with the Great Basin, Kiddoo has mostly worked on the Owens Lake Dust ID Program. He developed the data rendering and process displays (seen on Great Basin’s website) for the dust levels at Owens Lake, the country’s single largest source of particulate matter.
He also worked closely on Great Basin’s lawsuit with the City of Los Angeles for “additional dust controls at Owens Lake and fees regarding our monitoring program,” he said. The lawsuit was resolved in 2014, perfect timing for Schade’s retirement. “It was the end of an era,” Kiddoo said.
When the Great Basin Board decided to open the Officer position to outside candidates, Kiddoo decided to put in his application. “It was a long shot…Phill against the world is how I saw it,” he said.
In his new role, Kiddoo is looking forward to getting out of the office more and “getting my boots dirty at Owens Lake,” he said. “I’m looking forward to working with all the employees in all aspects of the District’s functions, working with other agencies and groups cooperatively and working with people in the community.”
Great Basin’s focus is still Owens Lake, with the last two phases for dust control set to be in place by the end of 2017. “That’s the milestone when the Lake should be almost fixed if not totally fixed,” he said. “We really need to not let our guard down and keep our data integrity where it is … This last little bit is really important.”
Kiddoo is also looking at Great Basin’s monitoring sites at Mono Lake, which has high particulate matter emissions. Once the dust at Owen’s Lake is under control, “Mono Lake is going to be on everybody’s radar,” he said. “They already have a long term plan but at this point, it’s just about if that plan is going to work. Is the hydrology model accurate enough to get the lake level where it’s supposed to be in the projected timeframe?”
As for the current lawsuit between Great Basin and Mammoth Community Water District over Schade’s approval of the Environmental Impact Report (EIR) for the Casa Diablo Geothermal Plant IV, Kiddoo backs his predecessor. “We follow the procedures and the laws correctly. The scientific evidence points that there is no connection between groundwater and the geothermal activity,” he said. “I haven’t done my own independent analysis yet, but I take the District’s word for it.”
Kiddoo attended the court hearing last week on his vacation and before formally taking office because “there might be some fallout from the trial that might land on my plate and I want to prepare myself as soon and as best as possible,” he said.
Kiddoo plans to stay at Great Basin for the rest of his career. “It’s a really great place to work. It functions a lot differently than your typical government agency,” he said. “It’s like a tight knit family … That’s unique.”