Water stories continue to dominate local news

Four local water stories continue to drive heightened awareness for residents and interested parties in the Indian Wells Valley and environs.

Permit for new pipeline

Leading off is the recent revelation of an application filed with Inyo County by the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power seeking a permit to build a new pipeline in the Rose Valley-Little Lake area.

DWP wants to reactivate a dormant irrigation well in Rose Valley between Coso Junction and South Haiwee Reservoir.

The project would also install an 8-inch-diameter water pipeline of approximately 1,540 feet to connect the well to the to its 100-year- old Eastern Sierra aqueduct system for conveyance down below.

Inyo County has expressed several concerns about the proposal, including the prospect of a negative impact on Little Lake.

The Coso geothermal plant extracts water from the same locale for its operations. Because of an observed impact on the lake, the county’s water department recently reduced the amount of groundwater Coso is permitted to withdraw.

The county has been unable to determine what outcomes additional DWP pumping might produce. It wants LADWP to consider undertaking a more rigorous Environ-mental Impact Report under the California Environmental Quality Act for the Rose Valley Pipeline project, rather than the lower-level Initial Study/Mitigated Negative Declaration.

Kern River Valley concerns

A clerk in a South China Lake Boulevard convenience store was the latest person of several to engage this reporter regarding an evergreen story about negative impacts to water, land and wildlife in the Kern River Valley.

This version had a developer acquiring land and water rights to build, among other projects, a large solar energy farm on ranchland near Onyx and Weldon. Certain residents overlooking the properties in question, ostensibly living on what was referred to as “homestead lands,” were reported to be “very concerned” especially about potential impacts to the world-class viewscape and the Audubon-designated area of “global importance” to birds.

Kern County Director of Planning Lorelei Oviatt said no. “There was interest expressed in such a project, but the proponents withdrew some time ago after we determined it was a proposal we would not favor,” said Oviatt.

IWV groundwater resources

While the continuing saga of the study of studies by Kern County of the valley’s groundwater resources has added no new chapters, there are developments on the horizon.

The effort, the “Indian Wells Valley Resource Opportunity Plan,” pending additional findings by the county’s retained project manager, Todd Engineers, and any accompanying delays, is slated to be considered by the board of supervisors at its Feb. 25, 2014 meeting in Bakersfield.

This effort, and the proposed “Fremont Valley Preservation Project,” are both on the agenda for the Dec. 19 meeting of the Indian Wells Valley Cooperative Ground-water Management Group. That meeting, which is open to the public, is set for 1 p.m. at the offices of the IWV Water District.

Fremont Valley Project

Finally, the highest-profile local water story in years has generated an enormous response ranging from an online petition by MoveOn.org, a national progressive organization, to vehement protests by local public agencies and leaders, including the Eastern Kern County Resource Conser-vation District.

Oviatt will present a status report on the proposed “Fremont Valley Preservation Project” at tonight’s meeting of the Ridgecrest City Council (see lead story, this issue).

The massive project is proposed by subsidiaries of AquaHelio Management, Inc., of Beverly Hills.

The Fremont Valley Preserva-tion Project is a massive 4,000-acre solar energy and water-banking project, which is estimated to generate 1,008 megawatts of solar energy for Los Angeles County. The project would include up to 75 miles of 230 kV or 345 kV transmission lines.

Water banking is the more controversial piece. The draft EIR proposes drawing up to 114,000 acre feet of water per year from the local groundwater sources. An acre-foot equals 325,851 gallons.

This project includes 1,800 acres of percolation ponds, 40 injection wells to inject water into the local aquifer and some 40 wells for drawing native groundwater from the aquifer.

The water banking facility would develop infrastructure for recharge of up to 200,000 acre-feet per year of water from the DWP aqueduct.

Surface water would be banked in the aquifers beneath the project sites for later recovery. Recovery of the water could occur in two phases, each phase recovering up to 100,000 acre-feet of banked water.

Additionally more than 3,300 acres of the project are under Williamson Act land-use vontracts. “Notices of Nonrenewal” of the contracts were made in January 2006, but the contracts will not expire until Dec. 31, 2015.

This circumstance required a petition for the early cancellation of the contracts for this acreage, which is also proposed.

Two public workshops will be held in the Randsburg-Cantil area and the Indian Wells Valley. Locations and dates have yet to be announced for these meetings.

Story First Published: 2013-12-18