LADWP to get started on the replacement of a water pipe crucial to agriculture on the Big Pine Paiute Reservation

Posted by Seth Conners

According to a press release from Amanda Parson at DWP, at Tuesday’s Los Angeles Board of Water and Power Commissioners meeting, a number of members of the Big Pine Paiute Tribe and other tribal advocates appealed to the board members to take action to repair a failing 75-year-old irrigation pipe that provides water to tribal lands in the Owens Valley during the general public comment portion of the agenda. Leaks along the 1300 foot, 18 inch line, constructed around 1940 by the Bureau of Indian Affairs, have greatly diminished the line’s ability to provide water for irrigation of the tribe’s reservation land. Issues over ownership of the line and future responsibility for its repair and maintenance had slowed addressing the situation. Although in recent months, the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (LADWP) had agreed to make the repairs pending resolution of these issues.


During the course of the public comment, Commissioner Christina Noonan was so moved by the heartfelt stories and concerns for the welfare of the tribal members that she offered to personally cover the cost of the pipe repair in order to make water available this irrigation season. She commented, “As a long-time representative of the City of LA on the LA-Inyo Standing committee, I understand both sides of the issues, and I am concerned that poor communications between the parties is prohibiting much needed action, so I am ready to resolve this today.” As the issue was not on the Board agenda, no action by the Board was able to be taken on the matter.


Following the Board meeting, LADWP General Manager David H. Wright directed staff to take immediate steps to fix the failing pipeline without using the Commissioner’s generous donation. Wright said, “Both the LADWP and the Big Pine Paiute Tribe of the Owens Valley are concerned that the pipeline be repaired as quickly as possible to prevent another year of major losses due to leakage. While LADWP had already previously offered to pay to fix the pipe as part of a mutual agreement, it is clear that we cannot wait to resolve broader issues surrounding future responsibilities quickly enough. In the spirit of cooperation, we will expedite the repair or replacement of the failing portions of the irrigation pipe at our own cost, as we had originally offered. We will continue discussions with the tribe and the United States Bureau of Indian Affairs regarding the underlying ownership, maintenance responsibilities and other issues at a future time.”