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Blackrock wellfield site of field trip

June 9, 2011

The California Native Plant Society will lead a field trip this weekend to Blackrock Springs, an area that the club and Inyo County Water Department agree has experienced negative impacts resulting from LADWP groundwater pumping. Photo courtesy Inyo County Water Department

Residents are being offered an up-close and personal view this weekend of what one group is calling irresponsible land management practices.
Members of the California Native Plant Society will be leading a field trip in the Eight-Mile Ranch and Blackrock Springs area between Independence and Big Pine this weekend to visit a “degraded alkali meadow habitat.”
The degradation, according to the Bristlecone Chapter of the CNPS, is the direct result of too much groundwater pumping on the part of the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power and complicity on the part of the County of Inyo.
“In July 2007 the Bristlecone Chapter of the CNPS formally requested DWP and Inyo County to modify groundwater management in the Blackrock area due to degradation of rare alkali meadow habitat,” states an announcement from the CNPS inviting residents on the tour. “Almost four years later, the Inyo County Water Department has finally agreed with our contention that management must be modified.”
In February, the Inyo County Water Department submitted a report to the LADWP, which owns the property, that claims there are significant, measurable impacts in the area that can likely be attributed to LADWP operations.
According to the Inyo County-Los Angeles Long-term Water Agreement, the LADWP is not permitted to conduct any pumping that would result in measurable reductions in vegetation when compared to baseline levels take in the 1980s.
According to Inyo County Water Director Bob Harrington, there is a four-step process before mitigations measures can be identified for an area that has been determined to be experiencing negative impacts from LADWP’s activities.
The first is to identify what the impacts are.
Harrington said that the Water Department has determined that there are negative impacts, but is awaiting a response from the LADWP. Los Angeles officials said their response should be complete this month.
If the department agrees that there are impacts, the next step would be to determine the cause.
Harrington said that it is currently unclear what course the Water Department will take if the LADWP disagrees with the county and the CNPS’ assertion that there are negative impacts. “We’ll have to see the nature of their argument,” Harrington said.
If the LADWP agrees that there is a measurable impact to the vegetation, “and if L.A. is to blame, we will look at the significance of the impacts and the final step will be to determine how to mitigate,” Harrington said. “I am anticipating that there will be some disagreements.”
If the LADWP agrees that it is responsible for the negative impacts to the Blackrock site, Harrington said there are a number of options the county could pursue for mitigation, including an increase in water spreading, a decrease in pumping or off-site mitigation such as adding more water to the Lower Owens River Project, or allowing the situation at Blackrock to remain the same.
The CNPS will meet at 9 a.m. Sunday at the Fort Independence Travel Plaza and Casino to embark on the field trip which is expected to end at about 1 p.m.
All are invited to attend.

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