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Profile of the Mono Basin EIR

Environmental Impact Report for the Review of the Mono Basin Water Rights of the City of Los Angeles

Click on footnotes -- 1 -- to see the notes at the bottom of the profiles. Click on words in italics to see the definition in the glossary.

The Mono Basin EIR was prepared as an informational document for the State Water Resources Control Board to use in amending Los Angeles' water rights licenses. This was done to satisfy the requirements of the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA).

CEQA was enacted by the California State Legislature in 1970, 1 year after Congress enacted the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). Both of these laws require public agencies to consider the environmental implications of their actions.1

The main tool under CEQA that state and local agencies use to determine effects on the environment is an Environmental Impact Report (EIR). EIRs are typically voluminous documents that are directly proportional in size to the complexity of the project that they analyze.

The Environmental Impact Report for the Review of the Mono Basin Water Rights of the City of Los Angeles (Mono Basin EIR), prepared for the California State Water Resources Control Board (SWRCB), is no exception. Including volume 1 and 2 and the appendices, the Draft EIR is 6 inches thick. Volume 1 and 2 of the Final EIR span another two inches. In total, the Mono Basin EIR is over 1500 pages long.

The topics covered range from Air Quality to Wildlife, and encompass not only the Mono Basin but possible environmental impacts along the L.A. Aqueduct from the Upper Owens River all the way to Los Angeles. Seven alternative management scenarios ranging from no water diversions to unlimited water diversions are analyzed.

The preparers consisted of 52 different people from one agency and three consulting firms.2 It cost $4.2 million, which includes 28 technical reports that were ultimately used as references for the EIR, but not included.3 Jones & Stokes was selected as the primary contractor in June of 1990,4 and three years later, in May of 1993, the Draft EIR was completed. Public comments on the draft were accepted from May 28, 1993 until August 30, 1993. About 4000 letters were received. These comments were considered and incorporated into the Final EIR, which was completed in September 1994.5

In terms of cost and number of people involved, it was one of the biggest EIRs that Jones & Stokes or "probably anyone has ever done," stated Ken Casaday, project manager for Jones & Stokes, "the level of technical scrutiny was higher than any other environmental document that I'm aware of." This was because of the tremendous amount of technical material there was, not just gathered by researchers for the EIR, but from previous researchers as well. It is a candidate (nationwide) for being the "biggest technical challenge ever," in terms of an environmental document.6

Based on the EIR, and more than 44 days of public hearings,7 the State Water Resources Control Board in September 1994 issued Decision 1631, which ordered minimum fish flows for the diverted streams, minimum flushing/maintenance flows, maximum diversions allowed based on the level of Mono Lake (designed to raise the lake to 6392' in 20-30 years), maximum discharge into the Upper Owens River, and stream restoration plans and waterfowl habitat restoration plans to be developed (and implemented after SWRCB approval).8

Although the Mono Basin EIR is probably the most comprehensive source of scientific information on the Mono Basin, some conclusions based on that information are open to debate. Among some contentious issues is that the point of reference used is 1989, not 1941. This occasionally affects how some data and conclusions are presented. Other issues open to debate are the availability of snowy plover nesting habitat and the results and conclusions of visual surveys.9 These are all relatively minor issues, however, and in general, the quality of the information in the Mono Basin EIR is unequaled.

Notes:

(1)p. 1, Remy, Michael H., et. al., Guide to CEQA, 6th edition, 1992
(2)Chapter 4, Mono Basin DEIR, 1993
(3)personal communication with Jim Canaday, February 2, 1996
(4)p. 14, SWRCB Decision 1631, 1994
(5)p. 1, Mono Basin FEIR, 1994
(6)personal communication with Ken Casaday, February 2, 1996
(7)p. 19, Winter-Spring 1995 Mono Lake Newsletter
(8)p. 199-216, SWRCB Decision 1631, 1994
(9)Comments 21-30 and 21-37, Mono Basin FEIR

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