Upper Owens River

GOAL 22. Retain the existing rural character and environmental resources of the Upper Owens Area.

Objective 22.A.

Protect the unique natural setting, ecology, riparian corridor and fishery, wildlife, recreational and agricultural resources of the Upper Owens by limiting the types and intensity of development in the area.

Policy 22.A.1. Limit development in the area to guest and family ranches, related commercial uses, agricultural uses and support residential uses.

Action 22.A.1.a. In this Element, assign and designate the privately owned property of the Upper Owens area as Agriculture.

Action 22.A.1.b. Require the preparation of a specific plan for projects of more than 30 units. Such projects shall provide a fiscal impact analysis that assesses the impacts of the project on local service agencies, and a market study that analyzes the market demand for such a development.

Action 22.A.1.c. A use permit shall be required for seasonal residential, guest ranch or support residential development that exceeds four units per parcel. Projects proposing several units constructed over a period of time may apply for a single use permit. Certain uses, such as employee housing, and the replacement of existing units may be exempted from these requirements.

Policy 22.A.2. Limit winter residential occupancy to that which is associated with minimum security, maintenance, and occasional visitation.

Action 22.A.2.a. New residential development for permanent residents, unless associated with existing guest ranches or agricultural operations, shall not be permitted. Development proposed to provide housing for the resort/ranch owners, guests, managers, and employees may be permitted. Existing housing units may be replaced at the same location with no additional restrictions.

Action 22.A.2.b. Maintain the current practice of limited winter road plowing.

Policy 22.A.3. Restrict development in a manner that preserves the environmental quality of the area.

Action 22.A.3.a. Based upon existing resource information, estimate thresholds for maintaining the area's environmental quality; thresholds should address air quality, viewsheds, water quality, noise environment, traffic, and wildlife habitats. The type and intensity of permitted development should not exceed the estimated thresholds. Development projects proposed prior to the establishment of these thresholds should address these issues in project environmental assessments.

Action 22.A.3.b. Development projects that may have significant environmental impacts shall assess potential impact(s), determine if they exceed estimated environmental thresholds, and recommend project alternatives and/or mitigation measures prior to project approval, in the manner required by General Plan policies and CEQA.

Action 22.A.3.c. Development projects shall avoid potential significant environmental impacts or mitigate impacts to a level of non-significance, unless the benefits of the proposed project outweigh the unavoidable adverse environmental effects, and an appropriate statement of overriding considerations is made through the EIR process.

Action 22.A.3.d. Future development shall be sited and designed to avoid disturbing the scenic quality of the area. The use of bright colors and reflective materials shall be avoided, except when compatible with existing historical architecture, and buildings should utilize natural screening, such as topographic features and vegetative cover, to avoid detracting from open vistas. Construction in open meadow areas and on ridgelines should be avoided. Buildings shall be low profile, and in no instance exceed 35 feet in height. Utility lines shall be installed underground where environmentally feasible.

Policy 22.A.4. Facilitate input from area residents on local planning issues.

Action 22.A.4.a. Establish an Upper Owens Planning Advisory Committee consisting of area landowners to review and comment on planning and environmental projects having the potential to impact the area.

Objective 22.B.

Protect the water resources of the Upper Owens Area.

Policy 22.B.1. Ensure that direct and indirect impacts of development projects on the water resources of the Upper Owens Area are avoided or mitigated to a point where clearly no significant effects would occur.

Action 22.B.1.a. Oppose development of a fish hatchery at Big Springs, unless it can be demonstrated that there will clearly be no significant adverse effects on the area's water and fishery resources.

Action 22.B.1.b. Oppose water transfer projects that could affect the Upper Owens Watershed – such as the development of the Dry Creek Wellfield – unless it is demonstrated that there will clearly be no significant adverse effects on the area's water resources.

Action 22.B.1.c. Require development projects subject to the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) to set back 50 feet from the top of the bank of natural waterways, and to comply with other stream, riparian and wetland area setback requirements of federal and state agencies.

Action 22.B.1.d. Request that potential impacts from development projects subject to CEQA to the Upper Owens River be thoroughly considered in applicable environmental studies.

Action 22.B.1.e. Require development projects subject to CEQA with the potential to impact the water resources of the Upper Owens area to conduct long-term water monitoring programs in order to ensure the maintenance of the area's water quality and quantity.

Policy 22.B.2. Preserve the Upper Owens River water resources and riparian corridor.

Action 22.B.2.a. Work with local landowners to develop coordinated strategies for preserving the Upper Owens River corridor, including the riparian corridor, downstream to Crowley Lake. All reasonable stream preservation options and techniques – such as conservation easements, transfer of development rights, fencing, enhancement of water quality, and the sale of sensitive land to conservation organizations – may be considered.

Action 22.B.2.b. Promote sound grazing management in accordance with the Conservation/Open Space Element, Agriculture/Grazing/Timber policies, Goal I, Objective C.

Objective 22.C.

Promote the continuation of agricultural uses that are compatible with the rural recreational and open-space values of the area.

Policy 22.C.1. Allow for the continuation and reasonable expansion of agricultural uses, including grazing in a manner consistent with the environmental and recreational values of the area.

Action 22.C.1.a. Designate lands used for agricultural purposes as “Agriculture” to ensure consistency with the General Plan.

Action 22.C.1.b. Require new construction to be sited in a manner that avoids interference with existing ranching operations and livestock and wildlife movement.