Lone Pine High School’s ag students will get a look at government in action Friday afternoon as they and instructor Brenda Lacey ask the Los Angeles/Inyo County Standing Committee to finalize 15 years of discussions and get water to the school’s pasture.
At issue is a California Environmental Quality Act analysis on pumping 30 acre-feet of water annually for the school’s project. The report, put together by the county, has been sitting in Los Angeles for seven months. With an April grant-funding deadline looming, the CEQA report has to be resolved or the school loses funding to install its irrigation system.
Lacey and county Water Department Director Bob Harrington brought the Board of Supervisors up to date at its Tuesday meeting. The source for the school project’s water is a Los Angeles Department of Water and Power well designated to provide water to the adjacent Van Norman mitigation project. By negotiating a water swap with other projects, the school’s 30 acre-feet were added to Van Norman’s 480 acre-feet allotment. That was back in September 2012.
LADWP requested the CEQA document, Harrington told the board, in May 2013. The county prepared the document and forwarded it to Los Angeles. “We were told that since the land was a city lease, Los Angeles wanted their environmental department to handle it (the CEQA process).” That was seven months ago and “we’ve had nothing back since.”
According to Harrington, the Standing Committee agreed to increase the Van Norman well production by the 30 acre-feet the school required. The only monkey wrench left in the works is the CEQA.
“This didn’t have to happen,” was Supervisor Rick Pucci’s response. “It kind of amazes me. Whoever can get this (CEQA process) done quicker should do it.”
Lacey’s discussion went even farther back. LPHS’ farm was established on the 10-acre lease from LADWP in 1999. By October 2000, “it was a done deal,” she said. “We had the land leased but never accessed the water.”
The funding to install the irrigation system was to come from a Great Basin Air Quality Control District grant. The original grant deadline of January 2014 was pushed back to April. The one missing part of this puzzle is written approval from LADWP.
The school farm sits on 10 acres with five of those acres to be converted to pasture land in order to develop a breeding program as part of the ag instruction. “Breeding is a whole different aspect,” said Lacey. The lack of grazing land has kept the school from developing a breeding program. The cost to feed the stock is just too high.
“Right now we’re paying household rates (for the water piped to the ranch),” Lacey said. “To have (the 30 acre-feet) available to us would be awesome.”
The Standing Committee, established by the Long Term Water Agreement, is made up of elected officials, administrators and staff from the City of Los Angeles and Inyo County.
Lacey and her ag students will make their case to the committee at 1 p.m. this Friday, Feb. 7 at the Board of Supervisors Room in the County Administrative Center at 224 N. Edwards St., Independence.