County leaders Tuesday rejected the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power’s annual Lower Owens River Project Work Plan and Budget in favor of a plan they drafted. The county plan includes all the traditional elements and funding the two agencies have approved in past years.
Per an agreement between the two agencies, the annual work plan and budget has traditionally outlined the county and utility’s share of the cost of hydrologic monitoring, biologic and water quality monitoring, mosquito abatement, beaver control, adaptive management and invasive weed species control.
However, this year, Inyo Water Department Director Bob Harrington said, the LADWP did not include any funding for the noxious weed control efforts on the LORP, as it feels the program has not generated enough results. Harrington also said the LADWP was experiencing union issues associated with funding the invasive weed program, which is carried out by county staff.
County leaders, on the other hand, wish to keep the program operating to prevent the spread of invasive species such as salt cedar and Russian olive trees, which are known to be aggressive and compete with native black willow trees.
Ultimately the board approved a work plan and budget that includes $50,000 from the LADWP for invasive weed management, as long as the LADWP agrees to continue invasive weed management activities on the rest of the city-owned land near the LORP. First District Supervisor Linda Arcularius, who proposed the motion, said that if the LADWP refuses to continue its weed management program, she would like to see $100,000 budgeted in the LORP work plan for weed management.
“If you were to take a drive around, you would see that Inyo County, right now, is an isolated island in a sea of invasive weeds,” County Administrative Officer Kevin Carunchio said, pointing out that by combining efforts and resources, and focusing on preventing noxious weeds from getting a foothold locally, the LADWP and Inyo County only spend about $3.50 per acre, per year on weed management.
“The city and county’s collaborative effort shows what we can accomplish when we work together. But is it worth it to do weed management on the LORP if the surrounding area is not managed?” Carunchio asked.
Both Harrington and Arcularius answered him with a resounding “no.”
“I’m not comfortable adopting a plan with $0 for noxious weeds,” Arcularius said before making her motion. “If the LADWP can’t agree on that, this should come back to the board.”
Though county leaders disputed the LADWP’s proposal for weed management, the Board of Supervisors was comfortable with every other aspect of the work plan and budget.
In this year’s proposal, the county and LADWP agreed to split the $60,000 cost of mosquito abatement evenly, with each contributing $30,000.
The LADWP will be the only agency to contribute funds to hydrologic monitoring ($117,000), operations and maintenance ($98,765) and beaver control ($10,100).
Inyo County will cover the cost of keeping a consultant on staff, with a price tag of $205,232.
In all, the work plan and budget has Inyo County contributing $235,232, and the LADWP will be contributing $255,865.