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Blackrock dispute now in history books

June 27, 2014

Jim Yannotta, Los Angeles Department of Water and Power aqueduct manager, starts last Wednesday’s Technical Group meeting, flanked by county Water Department Director Bob Harrington. The meeting was step one in implementing the Blackrock 94 resolution. Photo submitted

The Blackrock 94 dispute was officially laid to rest Tuesday with the Inyo County Board of Supervisors’ formal approval of the resolution worked out between the County Water Department and Los Angeles Department of Water and Power staff.
With the LADWP Board of Directors’ approval already on record, the county supervisors voted unanimously to accept the resolution that reduces groundwater pumping from 12,000 cubic feet per second annually to 8,000 cfs and allows for a third party to develop a mutually agreeable vegetation monitoring system going forward. Supervisor Jeff Griffiths called the resolution “an amazing victory.”
The Long-Term Water Agreement lays out benchmarks for disputes requiring measureable, significant and attributable impacts from water management. Both LADWP and the county agreed that the vegetation in the 333-acre block identified as Blackrock 94 was measurably impacted. The dispute centered on whether the change was significant and why it had occurred.
LADWP had focused on the county’s vegetation monitoring protocol in its documentation for the Arbitration Panel. With the Ecological Society of America coming on board to develop monitoring procedures and function as expert advisors to the Technical Group, those issues should be laid to rest.
The day after the supervisors OK’d the resolution, County Water Department Director Bob Harrington advised the Technical Group that the Memorandum of Understanding had been signed by ESA and the county and that ESA would now develop a scope of work “and go from there.”
According to Harrington in a phone interview, ESA’s goal is “to come up with a common (monitoring) program” that both LADWP and Inyo County can agree on. “This step should go pretty quick,” Harrington said. “We’re already part way there.”
With the Blackrock 94 dispute stretching out over nearly seven years, beginning with a letter of concern from the California Native Plant Society in 2007, now the question is how quickly will the vegetation recover.
That question was put directly to the Tech Group by Sally Manning Wednesday morning. According to county Science Coordinator Aaron Steinwand, some of the monitoring wells in the area have already shown increases in the water table. In terms of recovery of groundwater dependent vegetation on the 333-acre block, there was no real answer. “We’ll find out as the data is collected,” said Harrington.

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