Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti declares state of emergency to address unprecedented snowmelt in the Owens Valley
Posted by Seth Conners
According to a press release from DWP, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti has declared a local State of Emergency to protect the lands and communities near the Los Angeles Aqueduct from flooding, as this year’s historic Eastern Sierra snowpack begins to melt into the Owens Valley.
This year’s snowpack in the Eastern Sierra is 241% above normal, and once spring sets in, the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (LADWP) expects the snowmelt to send up to 1 million acre-feet of runoff into the Owens Valley.
This runoff — nearly twice the amount of water Angelenos use in a year — will likely threaten local communities, hydroelectric power plants, and dust mitigation infrastructure in Owens Lake with destructive flooding. Mayor Garcetti’s Emergency Declaration will trigger City rules that enable LADWP to act quickly in response to the threat, and begin the process of requesting assistance from the state and federal governments.
“I am declaring a local State of Emergency today because we have a responsibility to protect Angelenos and the people of the Owens Valley — we must act quickly to address this threat,” said Mayor Garcetti. “I have also requested that Governor Brown help us coordinate our response with state agencies.”
“This emergency reminds us that climate change is not a problem for the distant future — it is already causing harm, and we know there is more to come. That’s why it’s critical for us to continue investing in infrastructure that makes our City more sustainable and resilient, and continue pushing to reduce our carbon emissions,” he added.
Mayor Garcetti is committed to making the City more sustainable, and combating climate change. His administration’s Sustainable City pLAn outlines ambitious goals for water conservation, carbon emission reduction, climate resiliency, and expanding the use of renewable energy. This historic snowpack directly after a historic drought is an example of the extreme climate patterns modeled in many climate studies.
Today’s Emergency Proclamation will help LADWP respond to the immediate threat of flooding in the Owens Valley by triggering special City rules that enable the utility to contract for the goods and services it needs more quickly. Since it is intended to last longer than seven days, the declaration requires approval by the City Council.
LADWP is already taking steps to prepare for this year’s snowmelt, and Mayor Garcetti’s declaration will enable the utility to act more quickly. For example, the agency is spreading water along the length of the L.A. Aqueduct system — so that the excess water can be used to replenish underground aquifers — and maximizing flows throughout the system, using more Aqueduct water to supply Los Angeles. It is also shoring up existing flood control infrastructure and emptying reservoirs along the Aqueduct to prepare for the snowmelt and protect its hydroelectric power plants and critical endangered species habitat from flooding.
In Owens Lake where the City has spent more than $1 billion on dust mitigation over the last two decades, LADWP is building new infrastructure to guide the flow of excess runoff away from its dust control operations and prevent them from destruction.
“Public safety is among our core values as an organization,” said LADWP General Manager David H. Wright. “LADWP has made a commitment to the residents of the Owens Valley to control dust emissions that can be harmful to breathe, and have spent over $1 billion on infrastructure to mitigate this dust. As storm waters threaten to destroy much of this investment, we must honor our commitment to the residents of the Owens Valley to reduce this form of air pollution, just like we honor our commitments to rate payers in the L.A. Basin. This Declaration by Mayor Garcetti today allows us to bypass lengthy supply procurement regulations to ensure that we can immediately continue to keep particulate matter from being blown off the dry lake playa during periods of high winds.”