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Lone Pine FFA irrigation solution on horizon

March 14, 2014

Lone Pine High School senior Genesee Lucia was one of three FFA members to address the Standing Committee at its meeting on Feb. 7. Photo by Deb Murphy

In what Inyo County Supervisors called “not the best alternative, but a good one,” the board agreed at Tuesday’s meeting to support a negotiated solution to get water to the Lone Pine High School’s FFA farm.
If approved at the next Inyo-L.A. Standing Committee meeting, as yet unscheduled, the 10-acre school farm will be added to the Van Norman Field enhancement mitigation project and tap into the project’s water source, Well 425. While the E/M project will be altered from 160 to 170 acres, the well output will remain at an annual output of 480 acre-feet rather than being increased by 30 a.f. as originally proposed.
The FFA farm will have its water in time to develop pasture land this spring, and the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power will be handed a “water neutral” solution. The only marginal loser is the Spainhower Ranch, the Van Norman Field lessee. Ranch representative Gabe Fogarty indicated to the supervisors that the ranch supports the compromise.
While the road to this solution is incredibly complicated, the FFA project itself is simple. With a grant for dust mitigation from the Great Basin Air Quality Control District, the club had planned to irrigate five of its 10-acre farm for grazing. The fencing and shelters were all in place and irrigation materials purchased but not yet installed. The only missing link was approval from the Standing Committee, to tap into the well on the adjacent Van Norman Field.
According to instructor Brenda Lacey, the pasture land would support a breeding program, something that was cost-prohibitive in the past. The organization is currently paying “city rates” for stock water.
According to both Lacey and Inyo County Water Department Director Bob Harrington, all the groundwork had been covered and approvals given to increase the Van Norman Field well by 30 a.f., from 480 to 510. But, the project, altering an E/M project, still had to go through the formality of approval by the Standing Committee, made up of representatives from LADWP and Inyo County and cemented in place by the Long-Term Water Agreement in 1991.
Everything came to a head at the Feb. 7 committee meeting in Independence. The last remaining piece of the puzzle was a California Environmental Quality Act document stalled out in the LADWP’s office. The LADWP representatives came up with a number of water neutral solutions, including moving the FFA’s infrastructure and installing the irrigation on the Van Norman acreage, then moving it all back again when the CEQA was completed. The additional 30 a.f. of water would be swapped out with South County’s Tree Lot E/M. That solution would not have required a Standing Committee approval.
While the preferred solution of adding the farm’s acreage to the Van Norman Field E/M still requires Standing Committee approval, the Water Department and LADWP staff have discussed that the only CEQA process required by the change is an exemption based on the minor alterations to the land. That document can be prepared by LADWP in time for the pasture grass to be sown.
“This is what communities can do,” said Supervisor Linda Arcularius, expressing her appreciation to Fogarty and Tom Noland of Spainhower Ranch.

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