A local environmental watchdog group and a local community advocacy group are working together toward cleaner air and warmer homes in the Owens Valley.
Great Basin Unified Air Pollution Control District has nearly $5 million to put toward air pollution reduction. And, the Inyo Mono Advocates for Community Action has been awarded $500,000 by Great Basin to replace residents’ inefficient fire places and old wood stoves. IMACA will start in the southern part of Inyo County and work its way north.
Great Basin received the large monetary sum as part of the settlement for Los Angles Department of Water and Power’s non-compliance with the Owens Lake Master Plan. The non-compliance refers to approximately three-and-a-half miles of lake bed that have not been adequately mitigated to reduce dust.
Lisa Isaacs, the contract administrator for Great Basin’s Clean Air Project, explained at the Nov. 28 Bishop City Council meeting that the money will go toward proposed projects in the Owens Valley Planning Area. This planning area covers roughly the area between Tinnemaha Reservoir and Haiwee Reservoir.
Isaacs explained that the grant money is open to any individual or entity, including Native American tribes, and income is not an eligibility factor, unlike the IMACA program, which is income-eligible.
Great Basin is looking to get the most “bang for the buck” with collaborations or partnerships between entities, Isaacs said. For example, a homeowner may have already been thinking about replacing an aged stove. That homeowner can put up some of the money then apply for the balance to purchase the new stove.
Grants will be awarded on a point system, Isaacs said, based on a large list of criteria. Isaacs said the Clean Air Project is looking for “measurable” and quantitative proof of lowering air pollution. Isaacs explained that some of the criteria is based on, for example, how many people will be affected by a proposal, social benefits or economic stimulus of a proposal.
Entities such as the Eastern Sierra Transit Authority are eligible, Isaacs explained, as are individual homeowners. Ideas or proposals for bike paths or walking trails are also within the range of possibly receiving funding. She explained the only area out of reach for the dollars are current or ongoing Owens Lake mitigation projects.
Funding for IMACA’s project is provided by Great Basin, and the two have the same basic goal – to improve air quality in the Owens Valley.
Like IMACA, the Clean Air Project is looking at replacing pellet or wood burning stoves, circa 1990 or earlier, before the Environmental Protection Act placed restrictions and mandates on stove construction and efficiency. The newer heating systems are 60-90 percent cleaner burning and much more energy efficient, according to Darren Malloy of IMACA.
IMACA’s Home Heating Emissions Reduction Program aims to reduce air pollution at the residential level. The heating upgrades will be available at little to no cost for those who apply and qualify, but are offered on a first-come, first-served basis. The program will fully replace approximately 100 heating units in the southern portion of the county.
Income-eligible residents can have their old stoves and heating systems replaced with EPA-certified inserts for pellet of wood stoves or kerosene or propane heaters.
IMACA will also do the installation and its qualified staff will also assist with further weatherization of a home.
There are hopes that the program will be extended to the rest of the county as well as into Mono and Alpine counties.
Isaacs said requests for proposals for the Great Basin grants and an application booklet should be available soon. Any and all criteria for granting funding for a proposal are spelled out in the RFP. The deadline to turn in RFPs is Feb. 15. Winners will be announced is early spring. The RFPs will be available at the Great Basin website at http://capp.gbuapcd.org 
Isaacs added that she will be happy to mail a copy of an RFP to those who request one by calling (760) 914-0388. She also said she would be available to answer applicant questions, but will not write the application for them.
She said Great Basin hopes to have the project complete by 2013.
Southern Owens Valley residents interested in applying should contact IMACA by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org  or by phone at (760) 873-8557, ext. 24.