Community News

MAJOR ROCKFALL

Mount Whitney Spring opening may be delayed.

Posted by Seth Conners

Substantial snowfall from an atmospheric river event in mid-January has led to a major rock fall on Whitney Portal Road, causing significant damage to an approximately 100-foot stretch of road. This damage may delay the re-opening of the road this spring.

Initial assessments by Inyo County, Cal Trans, and Inyo National Forest indicate that there will be approximately two months of work that include blasting and clearing the rock, and stabilizing and re-building the road bed. Road construction will not begin until after the permitting process is complete.

The road is currently gated just above Hogback Road on Whitney Portal Road to prevent vehicle entrance; however, foot traffic past the gate is not recommended due to the hazardous and potentially unstable conditions surrounding the rock fall.

For now, the area remains under snow and there is no clear estimate of when the removal operations will begin. Continued winter storms as well as the concerns for the stability of the slide area during the spring freeze/thaw cycle make it difficult to predict when this work can safely begin.

The Whitney Portal Road often opens by May 1st, conditions permitting, and that is also the beginning of the Mt. Whitney Lottery for day and overnight hikes. Every effort will be made by all parties involved to have the road open by this date.

While the road is under construction, access to Mt. Whitney is via the Whitney Portal National Recreation Trail (NRT) or from other trailheads such as Kearsarge Pass or Cottonwood Pass. The NRT will close for public safety when blasting is underway.

This winter has brought substantial snow to the Sierra Nevada. Snow should be expected along the trail through early summer and hikers will be required to have technical skill and equipment to access Mt. Whitney in the early season.

MAMMOTH LOCAL EMERGENCY

Property owners in Mammoth cans seek assistance with property damage costs.

Posted by Seth Conners

The Town is collating flood or snow damage from the weather related events that began on January 7, 2017 to residential property or business owners in the Town of Mammoth Lakes. If your property experienced physical damage or your business suffered substantial economic losses, please contact the Town directly at (760) 965-3632. Please be prepared to leave a short, concise message. Your call will be returned in a timely manner. Based on the level of property damage or economic loss, the Town may recommend you complete a U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) survey document in order to assess the level of assistance.

With the ratification by Town Council on February 1, 2017 regarding the existence of a local emergency declared by the Town Manager by proclamation on January 30, 2017, the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) may provide financial assistance to eligible property owners or businesses if all criteria are met. SBA provides two programs. The first is the Economic Injury Disaster Declaration and the second is a Physical Disaster Declaration. Criteria for both declarations must be met before financial assistance will be considered.

The completion of the worksheet or survey is not an application for assistance. The purpose of the survey documents are to gather damage information in order to assess the level of assistance.

For additional information about this program or to complete the Estimated Disaster Economic Injury Worksheet For Businesses or Damage Survey, please click here or contact Diana Jacobson, Permit Technician at (760) 965-3632 or via email: djacobson@townofmammothlakes.ca.gov.

INYO FLOOD TIPS

The county of Inyo wants the public to be prepared in case of flooding.

Posted by Seth Conners

MORE RAIN – CONTINUED FLOOD DANGER
The National Weather Service, Las Vegas, is forecasting another round of Pacific moisture spread across our region beginning Friday, February 9. Light to moderate rainfall amounts are expected across lower elevations. The main concern is that this will be a relatively warm rain event, with snow levels initially above 9,000 feet, when most of the precipitation falls. This may lead to accelerated snow melt concerns in the southern Sierra and flooding throughout the Owens Valley.

In preparation of possible flooding conditions due to heavy rains or snow melt-off, Inyo County residents are reminded that the Inyo County Office of Emergency Services, Inyo County Sheriff’s Office, and Inyo County Road Department have strategically staged sand piles at several locations throughout the Owens Valley. These sand piles are accessible anytime to all Inyo County residents for emergency preparedness and response, and will be replenished whenever possible.

BISHOP
Site 1: Back of the Bishop City Park near the Senior Center
Site 2: Bishop Fire Station 2 at West Line Street, west of Manor Market
Site 3: Bishop Fire Station 3 at SeeVee and U.S. Highway 395.
Site 4: Starlite Community Park
Site 5: Mustang Mesa-Mill Creek Road

BIG PINE
Big Pine Fire Station.

INDEPENDENCE
Inyo County Sheriff’s Facility on Clay Street
Inyo County Road Department on Mazourka Road

LONE PINE
Sand trap located on Whitney Portal Road West of the LA Aqueduct.

OLANCHA
Olancha Fire Department.
Sand bags for flood preparedness are available from many Inyo County merchants, including but is not limited to the following: Manor True Value, High Country Lumber, Home Lumber and Brown’s Supply in Bishop; Hi-Country Market in Big Pine; Gardner’s True Value in Lone Pine; and Home Depot in Pahrump.

Emergency sand bags are available from the following fire departments: Bishop Fire Station 1-Downtown Bishop, Big Pine Fire Station, Independence Fire Station, Lone Pine Fire Station, and Olancha Fire Station. Emergency sand bags will be distributed at the discretion of each fire department, and may be limited based on weather conditions, need and demand. Residents and businesses in known flood areas are urged to prepare ahead of time, utilizing the sand stockpiles listed above and sand bags purchased from local businesses.

To report flooding, please contact the Sheriff’s Office at (760) 878-0383. Be prepared to tell the Sheriff’s Dispatcher the exact location of the flooding and if the water threatens structures, animals, land, or roadways. If water threatens human life – dial 911. And always remember: If you see water crossing a roadway – Turn Around, Don’t Drown!

Flooding is one of the many dangers of hazardous weather conditions that can compound in a hurry for those who find themselves unprepared, which sadly, can lead to emotional and/or financial devastation. Fortunately, there are some simple steps to take to better protect you, your family, your pets, and your property from the dangers of flooding:

1. Clean gutters before the first storm hits, and again afterwards.

2. Check all drainage devices and remove accumulated silt and debris. This will need to be done repeatedly throughout the rainy season.

3. Check all areas of your property to ensure that all drainage is directed away from your house.

4. Do not park in front, or on top of, storm drain inlets when parking along the street.

5. On trash pick-up days, set trash cans on the curb in your parkway instead of in the street gutter. This will prevent back-up of flowing debris as well as prevent your trash cans from being swept away by swift-moving storm water.

6. Purchase tools and emergency supply materials such as shovels, sandbags and plastic sheeting and keep them handy and accessible.

7. Does your family have a Disaster Plan and a Disaster Supply Kit for your home and each of your vehicles? Form an evacuation plan. The key to surviving a flood, or any disaster, is learning the safest route away from your home to a safe area, in case you need to evacuate in a hurry. Prepare a cache of emergency supplies including food, water, fresh batteries, flashlights and portable radios in good working order, matches, firewood, fuel, prescriptions and a first aid kit. Advice on what your Disaster Plan should look like and what to include in your Disaster Supply Kits can be found on the Inyo County-Office of Emergency Services webpage. Visit http://www.inyocounty.us/OES/emergency_planning_and_disaster_supplies.htm for more tips and information on Emergency Planning and Disaster Supplies.

8. Do you know what the flood risk is for your property? Visit the following California Department of Water Resources (CDWR) webpage at
a. http://www.water.ca.gov/floodsafe/ca-flood-preparedness/fpw_home.cfm. Click on the link to enter your address location and find out what your risk level is.

9. Review your home insurance policy. Does it include flood insurance? Flood insurance is not always required, or typically included, in home policies. Read the fine print! Don’t wait until the last minute and the storm is bearing down on you. Most insurance companies have a 30 day waiting period before the flood policy will go into effect. Californians living in areas with any risk of flooding should purchase flood insurance through the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) immediately. Learn more at https://www.floodsmart.gov/floodsmart/.

10. Make an itemized list of personal property which includes clothing, furnishings and valuables. Take photographs of your home, both inside and out, and store them in a safe place. This will help an insurance adjuster to settle any claims and to help prove uninsured losses. Don’t rely on federal disaster assistance to pay for damages. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) typically provides assistance in the form of low interest loans, not as compensation for losses. For more information on flood-related resources, please visit the National Flood Insurance Program website at https://www.fema.gov/national-flood-insurance-program.

11. And finally…..BE PROACTIVE AND BE INFORMED! Track predicted storms on the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) website at http://www.noaa.gov/ and plan your travel and outdoor activities accordingly.

Remember, during emergency events such as severe storms and flooding, emergency workers may be responding to incidents all over the 10,000 square miles that make up Inyo County. It’s important that all residents and businesses take steps to be prepared and self-sufficient in the event of an emergency.

For more information on flooding risks and preparedness, check out the following link: http://www.ready.gov/floods.

MAMMOTH LAKES SNOW REMOVAL

Mammoth Lakes is getting help from up North to help remove massive snow buildup.

Posted by Seth Conners

According to Stuart Brown in Mammoth Lakes, A crew of 15 California Conservation Corps members from the CCC’s Tahoe Center are assisting the Town in areas that pose a significant threat to life and property. Led by supervisor Zach McHenry, the CCC crew is based at the Community Center on Forest Trail and will be here for approximately 10 days.

At the request of the Town of Mammoth Lakes, corps members are working with the Mammoth Lakes Fire Protection District, AmeriGas and Eastern Sierra Propane to clear record-setting January snow accumulations from approximately 40 prioritized risk-based propane tanks that are covered by up to 20 feet of snow.

The primary concern of the Town’s agencies is the risk to public safety from heavy snow potentially breaking off the first or second-stage regulators and piping on the tanks or homes, and thereby causing propane leakage that would pose a significant threat to life and property. The CCC crew will also remove snow around fire hydrants throughout town and from public buildings with flat or low-pitch roofs such as the Community Center or other public facilities. The crew has also assisted the Town with filling hundreds of sandbags to help mitigate localized flooding.

The California Conservation Corps is a state agency created in 1976 by Governor Edmund G. Brown Jr.  Members of the CCC are young men and women between the ages of 18 and 25 who join for a year of outdoor work as well as emergency response — floods, fires, earthquakes, oil spills and more.

MONO COUNTY DRUG COURT

New program in Mono County showing progress.

Posted by Seth Conners

Mono County Probation was awarded a grant in October of 2015 for the implementation of a Drug Court program.  Drug Court is a collaborative Court that focuses its attention on the participant and their sobriety. The agencies involved in this Court are the Mono County Superior Court, Mono County Probation Department, Mono County District Attorney’s Office, Mono County Behavioral Health Department, and the Public Defenders. These agencies alter their focus and traditional roles to assist people who have entered the criminal Courts due to underlying addictions. The first participant enrolled in the program on July 21, 2015. This participant experienced the expected difficulties that many face while trying to maintain a sober life, completing an intensive program, and dealing with the day to day problems and tasks we all face. On July 19, 2016, he had the courage to go before the Mono County Board of Supervisors and talked about his journey through Drug Court. He was approximately 75% of the way through the program when the presentation occurred. On January 25, 2017, he graduated from the program with 363 days clean from drugs and alcohol. Instead of continuing the “revolving door” process of going in and out of the custody, he now has the tools to remain clean and sober, be a contributing community member, good father, and good husband.
The Mission of the Mono County Drug Court: “To connect defendants who have a substantial substance abuse addiction to treatment in the community in order to enhance public safety, reduce recidivism, to provide alternative dispositions to criminal charges that take into consideration the individuals substance abuse, mental and physical health, and the seriousness of the offense.”

MAMMOTH STORMS

HEAVY SNOW/RAIN TO CONTINUE WITH AREAS OF FLOODING

Posted by Seth Conners
Mammoth Lakes, CA – The Town of Mammoth Lakes is notifying all residents and visitors that a Flood Watch and a High Wind Warning remains in effect through tonight tomorrow, February 9. A prolonged moderate to strong atmospheric river (AR) is bringing heavy snow/rain to the region. It is forecasted to decrease in intensity by mid-afternoon along with the strong winds, however rain/snow showers will continue with the next surge of moderate-heavy precipitation into early Friday morning.
Travel issues
Town crews are responding to areas of concern, particularly flooded roadways and drains. Rockslides are possible along mountain highways caused by torrential snow/rain. Widespread very strong winds continue along higher elevations leading to air/road disruptions, particularly along U.S. Highway 395. Mammoth Lakes could experience power issues, tree damage with excessive winds along the Sierra ridges of 150+ mph.
Be Prepared
The Town advises residents to stay indoors and only travel if absolutely necessary. Be aware of localized flooding and slow down for standing water. Help your neighbors and keep your flood protection measures in place. Persons living along small creeks and streams should monitor the latest weather information and be prepared to take action should flooding occur. Secure outdoor items due to periods of strong winds this week, especially for lee-side valleys and foothills.

Town of Mammoth Lakes
P.O. Box 1609
Mammoth Lakes, CA, 93546
Ph: (760) 965-3600
Fax: (760) 934-7493

MAMMOTH MAYOR ON MOST RECENT STORM

Cleanup crews working overtime to keep roads clear.

By Seth Conners

A note from Mayor Richardson,

The Eastern Sierra is experiencing white-out conditions and our snow removal crews are working overtime to keep up with the extreme conditions. I would ask everyone who doesn’t absolutely need to be driving to please stay where you are and allow our snow removal crews (Town, private, CalTrans and MMSA) to do their jobs unhindered.

If you have to drive, make sure you have chains, drive slowly and heed to all posted no parking signs. Please note that chains may be required even on 4WD vehicles (R3 Chain restrictions).

Our Town employees are responding to a number of public and private concerns. We are requesting additional outside resources and have begun to pre-plan for the next series of storms.

To acknowledge all of the snow removal operators, police officers, fire department personnel and road crews for their exceptional efforts during these challenging times, give them a thumbs up sign when you see them driving by – it will make their day.

Thank you for looking out for each other, we as a community need to work together!

Sincerely,

Mayor, Shields Richardson

HIGH AWARD BESTOWED UPON LIONS CLUB LOCAL

HIGH AWARD BESTOWED UPON LIONS CLUB LOCAL

One of the highest awards a local Lions Club can bestow upon one of its members is the Melvin Jones Fellowship, named after the founder of Lions International in Chicago in 1917. The award is actually an investment made by a local Lions Club through its headquarters in Chicago for international programs aimed at vision and hearing loss prevention and treatment, fighting global diabetes, hunger reduction for needy children, environmental improvement and solving pediatric cancer.

The Bishop Lions Club’s most recent Melvin Jones Scholarship Award is 2013-2014 Past President Bruce Kingsbury. Kingsbury was presented the award by current club president John Wooley. Kingsbury joins 40 other Bishop Lions who have received the award over the club’s almost 60 years of community presence and service. Special Diamond Progressive Melvin Jones Foundation awards have been given to Lions Janet Lowney in 2014 and the late Past District 4L-! Governor Ray Schaaf in 1991.

Kingbury joined the Bishop Lions Club in 1996 while still teaching at Palisade Glacier High School. Following his retirement in 2009, Bruce became more active in the clubs many fundraising activities, including working the food booth at the fairgrounds during Mule Days and the Tr-County Fair.

While working his way up the volunteer ranks within the club, did stints serving on the Board of Directors as 3rd Vice President, 1st VP and President. Kingsbury is a UCLA graduate in education, and is an Air Force veteran 1970-1975. He and his wife Maggie live in West Bishop and work and enjoy community activities and serving Lions International. Members of the public of the public with questions are invited to call President John Wooley at 760 872-3239 or Club Secretary Janey Lowney at 760 873-7060.

FELONY ARREST ON MAIN STREET

FELONY ARREST ON MAIN STREET

February 1, 2017

According to a press release from Bishop Police Department, last night at about 8:30 PM, a BPD Sergeant on patrol noticed an agitated male in front of businesses on the 100 block of S. Main St. Upon contacting the man, the Sergeant recognized him as Benjamin Bloom. While investigating further, the Sergeant determined Bloom was under the influence of a stimulant-type drug.

Bloom sensing an arrest challenged the Officers and began fighting with them. During the intense struggle, the suspect attempted several times to remove the Officer’s gun from its holster. The Sergeant and the Officer sustained damaged equipment and a minor injury.
27-year-old Bloom was taken to the hospital for medical clearance and then booked into the Inyo County Jail on the following charges:
69(a) PC (Felony): Threats or violence to deter police from performing official duty; resisting by force or violence
148(d) PC (Felony): Resisting, attempt to take firearm from Peace Officer
243(b) PC (Misd.): Battery on a Peace Officer
Anyone having witnessed Bloom’s conduct or this event, please contact the Bishop Police Department at (760) 873-5866.

 

SAGE GROUSE

$8 Million Fund Created to Improve Water Quality
and Conserve Greater Sage-Grouse in the Eastern Sierra

By Seth Conners

In a landmark victory for local conservation and the long-term health of the Eastern Sierra, the USDA’s Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP) has created an $8 million fund to support initiatives conserving the Bi-State population of greater sage-grouse and enhancing ranch water quality in the region.
Sage-grouse thrive in wide-open areas with abundant sagebrush, native grasses, and wet meadows – a landscape known as the sagebrush ecosystem, frequently found on working ranches. The RCPP will ensure that sage-grouse, along with other wildlife species that rely on the sagebrush ecosystem, will continue to exist harmoniously on ranchlands for years to come. This funding is available to landowners in the Bi-State area along the California-Nevada border.
Local non-profit Eastern Sierra Land Trust (ESLT) spearheaded the funding request with ten other national, state, regional, and private partners.
“Clean water and ranch stewardship are priorities that span state and party lines, and the Bi-State demonstrates that spirit of collaboration. This award is an affirmation of the work we are doing together and the power of partnership,” commented Susanna Danner, Land Conservation Program Director at ESLT.
Administered by the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), the RCPP is a new and highly-competitive program created in the 2014 Farm Bill. The RCPP awards innovative projects across the country that improve the nation’s water quality, combat drought, enhance soil health, support wildlife habitat, and protect agricultural viability.
One of only 88 projects funded nationwide, this investment is a direct result of the Bi-State Local Area Working Group (LAWG), a dynamic, cross-state partnership formed in 2002 to conserve sage-grouse habitat and protect rangeland health. The LAWG is composed of ranchers, conservationists, private organizations, state and local officials, and public land managers. In 2015, this group played a pivotal role in keeping the Bi-State population of greater sage-grouse off the Endangered Species List, effectively working together to solve a problem before additional regulation was necessary.
“This is an outstanding example of what can be achieved when people come together with a focus on solving a problem by harmonizing the diverse interests of all those involved,” remarked Pete Pumphrey, Eastern Sierra Audubon Society Conservation Chair.

What is the Bi-State Sage-Grouse?
When early explorers first surveyed the Great Basin, greater sage-grouse were so plentiful that the sky was said to darken when flocks took to the air. But after facing two centuries of habitat destruction and other threats, sage-grouse are now much rarer in the American West. Once numbering more than 16 million across the western United States, there are now only an estimated 500,000 of these birds left.
Found in eastern California and western Nevada, the Bi-State sage-grouse is a unique population of greater sage-grouse – one that is now considered to be much stronger thanks to years of conservation work by the LAWG.
It is also a bellwether species: the health of sage-grouse populations is indicative of the condition of the land itself. Where sage-grouse are in trouble, it’s more likely that other wildlife – like pronghorn, golden eagle, and more than 350 other species that rely on the sagebrush ecosystem – are in trouble, too.
Building On Success
Eastern Sierra Land Trust and its ten partners have agreed to leverage the RCPP’s $8 million investment by contributing an additional $20 million in funding and in-kind support to bolster sage-grouse conservation and water quality improvements.
According to Steve Nelson, field manager for the Bureau of Land Management’s Bishop Field Office, “The conservation and enhancement of working ranch lands is a fundamental component of the cooperative, landscape scale effort to conserve greater sage-grouse in the Bi-State area of eastern California and western Nevada.”
The impact of this funding will be far-reaching. In the Eastern Sierra, it means the protection of habitat for sage-grouse and other wildlife, clean water for local families, and the conservation of the region’s ranching heritage for future generations.
To Kay Ogden, Executive Director of Eastern Sierra Land Trust, the RCPP award is a major success for the community as a whole.
“From conservationists, to birding enthusiasts, to ranchers, to fishermen – this is a victory for everyone.”
About the Fund
The $8 million fund will be available for five years to landowners in portions of Inyo, Mono, and Alpine Counties of California and portions of Douglas, Lyon, Carson City, Mineral, and Esmeralda Counties in Nevada – an area of 7,000 square miles. Ranchers can apply to receive funds from this pool in order to complete projects that will enhance sage-grouse habitat and improve water quality on property they own and manage. In addition, local organizations such as Eastern Sierra Land Trust will be available to advise landowners and assist them in the application process.
NRCS will implement RCPP conservation contracts through three existing NRCS programs: Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP), Agricultural Conservation Easement Program – Grasslands of Special Significance, and Wetlands Reserve Easements. Examples of eligible projects include EQIP contracts to restore wetlands, construct wildlife-friendly fencing, prevent erosion by planting native grasses and shrubs, and reduce nonpoint source pollution to creeks and rivers. The RCPP also prioritizes voluntary conservation easements on private ranches and wetlands that provide sage-grouse habitat.
Any landowner interested in pursuing a project that will benefit the goals of the RCPP is encouraged to contact Susanna Danner, ESLT Land Conservation Program Director, at (760) 873-4554 or susanna@eslt.org.