Tag Archives: drought 2015

DWP issues post-standing committee statement

DWP issues statement

The June 4th Inyo/LA standing committee meeting was dominated by a shared sense of cooperation between Inyo County and the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power.  Working through another year of drought the two parties agreed to reduce water to the McNalley enhancement/mitigation project and Warren Lake while securing irrigation water through July.

In response to the June 4, 2015 Inyo County/Los Angeles Standing Committee meeting, The Los Angeles Department of Water and Power has issued the following statement:

The Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (LADWP) is pleased with the outcome of the June 4 Standing Committee meeting. In these times of unprecedented drought, we are encouraged by the collaboration exercised by the Inyo County community. This shared sacrifice by all, including the City of Los Angeles who itself is receiving an 85 percent reduction in LA Aqueduct water this runoff year, will allow local ranchers the ability to irrigate their lands through July. LADWP and the other MOU parties are working toward finalizing an agreement (hopefully by early THIS week) that will save up to 4,000 AF of water toward additional irrigation in the Owens Valley. If additional water savings are realized on Owens Lake this Fall and are agreed by Great Basin, State Lands, and California Department of Fish and Wildlife, then more water can be made available for continuing irrigation into August and later into the irrigation season.  We look forward to continued constructive collaboration with the community and more positive outcomes from future negotiations.”

The next Inyo/LA standing committee meeting is set for July 24th in Los Angeles.

inyo county news, ladwp, drought 2015, inyo county water department

Inyo LA standing committee meets

Standing Committee talks irrigation

The mood was light and casual Thursday as the Inyo/Los Angeles Standing committee discussed serious business.  The meeting was scheduled to begin at 11am in the Independence board of supervisors chambers, but the pledge of allegiance did not start the session until 11:22.  After the delayed start there was little tension in the meeting, as Inyo and LA representatives agreed on all fronts.

The session opened with the two parties agreeing to a reduction in water supplied to the McNalley ponds and pasture enhancement/mitigation project.   Inyo Water Department Director Bob Harrington noted that the potential pumping wells that could supply the project are in “off” status, and Owens River diversions are not a viable option.

LADWP Aqueduct Manager Jim Yannotta presented the grim numbers associated with runoff and operations.  Yannotta relayed the fact that the anticipated runoff for the first 6 months of the water year are at 25% of normal, and just 36% for the entire year. Yannotta notes this is less than half the flow of the worst year on record.

The operations and runoff update led into the big item before the standing committee, that being irrigation.  Back on On April 27th the LADWP had written ranchers notifying them that all irrigation would end on May 1st, that order was later lifted. At the time the LADWP’s spokesperson Amanda Parsons said, “Collaboration with local partners” will allow the LADWP flexibility with how they distribute water for in-valley uses.  Thursday LA indicated they are able to continue irrigtion to local leases due to approximately 2 thousand acre feet in savings at Owens Lake and by adding 3 thousand acre feet from pumping.  Yannotta indicates the pumping plan is “conservative, and will not affect vegetation or groundwater levels.” Yannotta also noted there is an additional 3 thousand acre feet stored in Crowley Lake that will be released for irrigation.

Staff from both LA and Inyo County indicated they are continuing to work with Memorandum of Understanding members to shift water from the Lower Owens River Project and Owens Lake.  The Sierra Club, California fish and wildlife, the state lands commission, the Owens Valley Committee , and the Great Basin Unified Air Pollution Control District are all a part of the MOU group.   All MOU members need to sign off on any changes.  Between the Lower Owens River Project, Owens Lake, and not supping water to Warren lake, the best estimates show four thousand acre feet of water could be shifted to irrigation. Between projected savings and the revelations of an additional 3 thousand acre feet at Crowley Lake, irrigation water will flow until august. This was certainly good news for ranchers who were in attendance.  Supervisor Matt Kingley was relieved to provide some bit of assurance to local ranchers, “We have bought time, but that’s really important for lease holders, our ranchers. To know that their irrigation is good through the end of July, except for those on creeks that may dry up, that we have no control over.”

Overall,  a clear feel of cooperation dominated the day, as light rain fell in Independence.   “I think the tone of the meting was really positive, obviously we have tough issues we are trying to work though with the city. One thing that I think is important to recognize is that we are all working sort of on one common goal, and that is to figure out the best way to use the water that we have to the best advantage of everyone here in the Owens Valley.”  Said Kingsley.

The next standing committee meeting is set for July 24th, in Los Angeles.

cover photo by Gary Young

inyo county news, ladap, matt kingsley, amanda parsons, jim yannotta, drought 2015

Inyo Limits Watering to twice per week

Inyo County revises emergency drought regulations

Public meetings next week will detail Inyo County’s regulations.  The regulations apply to systems operated by Inyo County, that’s Lone Pine, Independence and Laws.  The new standards are restricting watering to two days per week. Even numbered addresses may water on Wednesday and Saturday. Odd numbered addresses may water on Thursday and Sunday.

Clint Quilter, director of the Inyo County Department of public works says that for now, enforcement will focus on notification and education, “With the resources we have, what we are looking at initially, is to do a notification type enforcement. If someone tells us, ‘hey my neighbor is watering on the days they are not suppose to’.  We would really go quite a ways to inform that person of the days they can water. If it becomes an issue, then we will go down a different path and have that discussion with the board when it becomes necessary. So now we are looking for voluntary compliance.”

Inyo County has scheduled community meetings in Lone Pine and Independence to provide information on the State regulations, the County’s regulations and how that impacts town water systems consumers.

Public Meetings are scheduled for-

Independence:    6:00 PM, June 9, 2015 at the American Legion Hall, 205 South Edwards Street, Independence, CA 93526

Lone Pine:    6:00 PM, June 10, 2015 at Lone Pine Senior Center Statham Hall, 138 South Jackson Street, Lone Pine, CA 93545

Inyo County Public works is encouraging town water system customers in Lone Pine, Independence, and Laws to attend one of these meetings. For additional information, please contact Inyo County Public Works at (760) 878-0201.

Cover Photo By Gary Young

inyo county public works, drought 2015, clint quilter, lone pine news, laws, independence

Standing Committee meets Thursday

Inyo/LA Standing Committee meeting Thursday

The Inyo County/Los Angeles Standing Committee meets Thursday, June 4th in the Board of Supervisors Room, Independence.  Thursday’s agenda includes a runoff and operations update looking at “Water availability for Owens Valley and Los Angeles”.  There are two action items before the Standing Committee, the first looking to approve a program for reasonable reductions in irrigation water supply for Los Angeles owned lands in the Owens Valley, for recreation and wildlife projects, for projects implemented as part of the Inyo/Los Angeles Long Term Water Agreement, projects associated with the 1997 memorandum of Understanding, and for enhancement/mitigation projects.

The second action item is asking the Standing Committee to consider the approval of reductions in water supplied to the McNally Ponds and Pasture Enhancement/Mitigation Project.

Time will also be set aside for public comments.  The Thursday Inyo/Los Angeles standing committee meeting will begin at 11am in the Board of Supervisors Room, County administrative center, 224 North Edwards Street, Independence.

cover photo by Gary Young

inyo county news, ladwp, drought 2015, inyo los angeles standing committee

Cal Fire Suspending Burns

CAL FIRE Suspends Outdoor Residential Burning

CAL Fire press release:

Inyo and Mono Counties – As drought conditions continue to increase fire danger in the region, CAL FIRE has suspended all burn permits for outdoor open residential burning within the State Responsibility Area of Inyo and Mono Counties. This suspension takes effect at 6am, June 1st, 2015 and bans all residential outdoor burning of landscape debris including branches and leaves.

CAL FIRE Division Chief Paul Melendrez says, “The conditions we all experienced in February during the Round Fire in Mono County, reminds us all of the importance of defensible space and being prepared in the event of a wildland fire.”

“Through our Public Education, Fire Prevention Programs, Defensible Space Inspections and Homeowner compliance in Inyo County and Mono County, this all hands on deck approach will assist CALFIRE during this heightened fire threat” says CAL FIRE San Bernardino Unit Chief Darren Feldman.

“With record-setting drought conditions we must take every step possible to prevent new wildfires from starting,” said Chief Ken Pimlott, CAL FIRE director. “One Less Spark, means One Less Wildfire.”

Similar to last year, CAL FIRE has already responded to significantly more wildfires than in an average. CAL FIRE is asking residents to ensure that they are prepared for wildfires including maintaining a minimum of 100 feet of Defensible Space around every home.

Here are some tips to help prepare your home and property:
Clear all dead or dying vegetation 100 feet around all structures.
Landscape with fire resistant/drought tolerant plants
Find alternative ways to dispose of landscape debris like chipping or  hauling it to a biomass energy facility

The department may issue restricted temporary burning permits if there is an essential reason due to public health, safety. Agriculture, land management, fire training, and other industrial-type burning may proceed if a CAL FIRE official inspects the burn site and issues a special permit.

Campfires within organized campgrounds or on private property that are otherwise permitted will be allowed if the campfire is maintained in such a manner as to prevent its spread to the wildland.
For additional information on preparing for and preventing wildfires visit www.ReadyForWildfire.org.

cover photo by Gary Young, air support during the “Round Fire”.

cal fire, drought 2015, eastern sierra news, inyo county news, mono county news

Low Water, High Passion at Tech Group Meeting

Inyo County/Los Angleles Technical Group hears public concerns

The Inyo County/Los Angeles Department of water and power technical group met Tuesday morning at the DWP’s Bishop headquarters. The relatively short, 5 item agenda featured a scheduled discussion on water supply reductions to the McNalley ponds, but also featured pointed questions from local residents demanding answers to what they call “clear violations of the long term water agreement”.

Residents Sally Manning, Daris Moxley, and Gary Gilbert addressed the technical group Tuesday, as they did at the May 4th meeting. Manning quoted the Long Term Water agreement section relating to the DWP’s requirement to provide irrigation water. In regards to cuts in irrigation water, Manning said, “Justice is not being done”.

Daris Moxley spoke passionately about attending technical group and standing committee meetings since 2008 to voice concerns in regards to the DWP’s “non-compliance with the long term water agreement.”. Moxley noted that her questions have not be answered by the LADWP or Inyo County.

Responding to Moxley, Inyo County Water director Bob Harrington said, “We are reviewing the material you submitted and making assessments.”

Wilkerson rancher Gary Gilbert questioned the procedure for cuts in irrigation water. Stressing the importance of providing advance notice.

At the last Standing committee meeting Inyo County and the LADWP did not agree on a program of reasonable reductions in light of the ongoing drought. The long term agreement calls for reductions in irrigation, enhancement/mitigation, and other environmental projects in the Owens Valley. Bob Harrington indicates that Inyo County is continuing to meeting with MOU parties to look at adjustments to current projects to conserve water that could be transferred to irrigation.   Potential projects targeted include the lower owens river project and the owens dry lake.

The Standing committee is set to meet June 4th.

Cover Photo by Gary Young.

ladwp, inyo county water department, drought 2015, eastern sierra news, bob harrington


Water Awareness for Inyo Students

Inyo County Schools on the Forefront of Drought Education with New Water Awareness Campaign

submitted by Annie Blakey, Educational Services, Inyo County Superintendent of schools.

When Governor Jerry Brown issued California’s first-ever, statewide, mandatory restriction on water use on April 1, 2015 calling for a 25% reduction in potable water use, Inyo Schools realized that they needed to help educate their 2500 students with a drought education program for all students Pre-kindergarten thru high school.
“We have an obligation to assist in this drought and the most important aspect is educating our youth to become better stewards of our water and help educate their family into conservation,” said County Superintendent of Schools Dr. Terry McAteer
The campaign, targeting all Inyo County students from kindergarten through twelfth grades, consists of two programs: a Water Detective awareness program for K-4 and a science curriculum for grades 5-12.
Middle and high school students start with a quiz to assess what they already know about local and statewide water use. They will also be encouraged to use figures from the U.S. Census Bureau and the 2013 Bishop Water Rate Study to calculate how much water would be saved each day in Inyo County if we were to match Governor Brown’s call for 25% reductions in water use. Students will then generate and share lists of ways they can personally conserve water.
Countywide Science Coordinator Kerry Lozito developed the curriculum for grades 5-12 in cooperation with local science teachers and agency specialists including Bob Harrington, Director of the Inyo County Water Department; Dave Grah, Director of the City of Bishop Public Works; Dustin Blakey, Director of Inyo-Mono U.C. Cooperative Extension; and Mark Drew, Sierra Headwaters Regional Director for California Trout and the Director of Inyo-Mono Integrated Regional Water Management Plan.
“The main goal of the curriculum is to motivate and empower young people to take action in the face of California’s current water crisis,” said Superintendent McAteer.
The Pre-K through 4th grade Water Detective program has the same goal, but has tailored the message to the younger group with a fun visit from “Water Detective Chief” Mitzi Eilts, who teaches the children why water is important and the role they play in saving it.
After the children participate in the presentation, they are given kits—that include an assortment of items ranging from fun, Water Detective I.D. cards, badges and magnifying glasses to more educational activity books—and a simple, yet powerful, mission: detect ways to save water and encourage others to do the same.
McAteer wished to congratulate his staff in meeting tight timelines to get this program into every classroom before the end of the school year. He commended staff member Annie Blakey for coordinating the entire project.

cover photo by Gary Young Photography.

drought 2015, inyo county news, inyo county superintendent of school, dr terry mcateer

Living With Wildlife


submitted by ESWC

Eastern Sierra Wildlife Care will hold a free workshop on “Good Relations with Our Wild Neighbors” on Wednesday, May 27, at The Imagination Lab, 621 W Line St (across from Dwayne’s), Suite 204 (upstairs). The 90-minute session will begin at 6:30 PM.

Our prolonged drought is forcing an increasing number of wild animals to move closer to human habitations as they search for food and water. Most residents of the Eastern Sierra share their home territory with wild birds, mammals and/or reptiles at some times and to differing degrees; human-wildlife conflicts—such as a striped skunk digging up your lawn for earthworms and grubs or rabbits foraging in your garden—are on the increase. Problems such as birds hitting windows or getting trapped in buildings have also become more frequent.

Eastern Sierra Wildlife Care is experienced in handling hundreds of “living with wildlife” calls annually. The workshop will give ample time for questions and discussion. Consultants from ESWC will offer humane, non-lethal methods to reduce conflicts and resolve problems, examine the impact of new state laws concerning trapping and relocation, and provide counsel for your particular problem. Learn simple, inexpensive ways to reduce unwanted visitors from your garden or save birds from dying from window strikes.
Call Cindy or Kelly at ESWC, 760-872-1487 for information or to reserve a space for the workshop.

ESWC PHOTO:This dispersing juvenile Ringtail wandered into an outbuilding at CalTrans
ESWC PHOTO:This dispersing juvenile Ringtail wandered into an outbuilding at CalTrans

cover photo by ESWC

eastern sierra wildlife care, drought 2015, eastern sierra news, bishop news, bishop california

Bishop cuts water usage, still short of Browns goal

City water usage down 20%

City of Bishop Public Works submission:

City of Bishop water customers used 20% less water in April 2015 compared to April 2013. Because of the drought, the state requires potable water users to use 25% less water in 2015 compared to 2013. Last summer, the State of California required that the City of Bishop implement water conservation measures to achieve the state-required reduction in water use. Most water conservation requirements apply to outside irrigation so, with the traditional start of the irrigation system in the Owens Valley 1 April, the reduction in water use is starting to show.
Water use in 2013, 2014, and so far in 2015 is down substantially in April 2015. Although water use was down 20% in April, it wasn’t down the 25% required by the state. In December, the city will have to report to the state how well its users have conserved water. The city could be subject to $10,000 per day fines if it doesn’t meet the 25% reduction in water use.

As a reminder, the current water conservation mandates that apply to City of Bishop water users are:

No outdoor irrigation except between 5 pm and 9 am

No outdoor irrigation such that water runs off property

No outdoor irrigation during and within 48 hours after precipitation

New landscaping must use drip irrigation or microspray

No washing vehicles unless hose is fitted with a shut-off nozzleNo washing driveways, sidewalks, and parking areas

No decorative water features unless there is recirculation

No serving of water in commercial establishments except upon request

Hotel guests can choose to not have towels and linens washed each day

No water waste caused by easily correctable leaks, breaks, or malfunctions

No use of potable water for construction purposes

No hydrant flushing except when required for public health and safety

Most water is used for outdoor irrigation so most measures address outdoor irrigation.  The city may allow exceptions to some of these measures in some cases. More water conservation requirements are expected from the state as the drought continues. Saving water saves money, reduces water rates, protects groundwater, is the right thing to do, and is now required by the state. Contact the City of Bishop Department of Public Works at 873-8458 for more information on water conservation and the City’s water

cover photo by Gary Young.

city of bishop california, drought 2015, bishop news, eastern sierra news


Water fight!

Tech Group looks at water cuts

The Inyo County/Los Angeles department of water and power technical group met Monday morning in Bishop to discuss potential cuts to “in valley” water uses that would spare water for irrigation. The meeting included an update on the grim runoff projections with the LADWP letting everyone know that they will not export any water from the Owens Valley into Los Angeles during the first half of the 2015-2016 runoff year, and most likely not until November, 2015. Noting that for the entire runoff year only 42,400 acre feet will be exported. This is due to the fourth consecutive year of extreme drought. How ugly is the picture?…the LADWP estimates this years runoff to be just 36% of normal, compared to 52% last year.

The grim runoff picture means less water will be available for in valley uses, including irrigation and court ordered enhancement/mitigation projects. A major portion of Mondays meeting focused on potential areas where water could be saved to make sure irrigation to local lessee continues. On April 27th the LADWP had written ranchers notifying them that all irrigation would end on May 1st, that order was later lifted for lands in the Bishop cone. At the time the LADWP’s spokesperson Amanda Parsons said, “Collaboration with local partners” will allow the LADWP flexibility with how they distribute water for in-valley uses.

On Monday, officials discussed several areas where water could be shifted. The areas discussed included cuts to Klondike Lake, Goose Lake, Owens dry lake and the Lower Owens River Project (LORP). Any potential cuts would have to be approved by both the Inyo Board of Supervisors and LA officials, and any adjustments to the LORP would have to be cleared by those in the MOU group. Also the State lands commission and the Great Basin Unified Air Pollution control district would have a voice in any adjustments to water going on the dry lake.

Other meeting notes:
Wilkerson Rancher Gary Gilbert is claiming the LADWP violated the long term water agreement when they cut water to his Wilkerson lease. The DWP said their action to cut irrigation was not a violation.

Daris Moxley questioned why the McNally Ponds mitigation project has only received water 7 times since 1991.

Sally Manning questioned the accuracy of testing being done at well 385 located near 5 Bridges Road north of Bishop. Manning spoke passionately about the wells negative effect on fish slough.

Allan Bacoch from the Big Pine tribe noted that the Big Pine area is “being pumped heavily and there are clear impacts.”

And a representative from the Lone Pine tribe noted that pumping has dropped ground water levels 10 feet in the past year.

The discussion will continue at Tuesdays Inyo Board of Supervisors meeting and Thursday at the Standing Committee meeting.  The Standing Committee meeting will begin at 10am at the Lone Pine Visitors Center for a field trip to the Owens Dry Lake and Lone Pine High School Farm, then reconvene at the Board Room at 1pm.

cover photo by Gary Young. www.garyyoungphotography.com

ladwp, eastern sierra news, drought 2015, inyo county

Historic Drought Requires Historic Solutions

Historic Drought Requires Historic Solutions

Op-Ed by Amanda Parsons, LADWP Spokesperson

When gazing at the Sierra Nevada Mountains this year there is a harsh reality staring back: California is in the midst of a four-year drought – a drought so dire that it is unparalleled by any in the recorded history of the State. Snow pack in the Eastern Sierra was measured at only 4 percent of normal and runoff this year is only 36 percent of normal, far shattering the previous lowest year.
Many in the community are pleased that virtually no water from the LA Aqueduct will be exported south of Owens Lake, likely until November. But the harsh reality is, this year, there simply is not enough water to meet all of our obligations in the Owens Valley for the environment, local agriculture, tribal lands, irrigation, stockwater, recreation, and dust mitigation on Owens Lake. This reality is further complicated by the fact that required legal obligations and stipulated judgments have bound the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (LADWP) to use what little water is available to fulfill certain mandates, causing others to receive less.
For those who attended the County Board of Supervisors workshop meeting last Tuesday to discuss the lack of water, we want to thank you for voicing your opinions and making yourself heard. Constructive suggestions were brought up by the County Supervisors and the community.
Jim Yannotta, LADWP Manager of Aqueduct, is pleased to report that with cooperation of the Great Basin Unified Air Pollution Control District (Great Basin), irrigation to LADWP leaseholders will not be shut off on May 1st as previously considered. This collaboration between Great Basin and LADWP allowed us to reach a mutually agreed upon solution for water savings on Owens Lake this spring, providing additional water for irrigation to continue for the near term, and helping local agriculture and the Owens Valley economy in the process.
This agreement with Great Basin couldn’t have been achieved without the help of the community and their participation in this complicated discussion. As the discussion continues, there is opportunity for further water savings that could be made available for irrigation or other uses. However, several questions remain in the community – questions about LADWP’s timing, reasoning, and numbers.
We understand that the timing of our letter to our leaseholders notifying them of our need to shut off irrigation water appears to have been done with too short of notice.
LADWP wants to emphasize that staff made efforts prior to the release of that letter to alert our stakeholders of the impacts this drought would have on local operations. A letter was sent to all our leaseholders in March informing them that irrigation amounts would be greatly reduced this year. We also invited a number of the members of the ranching community to our Bishop office almost two weeks ago once the final runoff numbers for this year were calculated showing an extreme shortage of water and lack of water for irrigation. The Department’s Annual Owens Valley Operations Plan is due to Inyo County on April 20 each year. Immediately, discussion with Inyo County Water Department and County officials ensued regarding the severity of the situation.
Continuing irrigation on our lease lands at the level it occurred during April would leave the Department short of water to meet all demands and our many legal obligations. LADWP staff worked to find solutions, but once the reality of the long list of legal obligations the Department faces came in to play, we had to show in the Operations Plan where the extremely limited amount of water would be used on LA-owned lands. Unless we neglected our legal requirements to the environment and for clean air by controlling dust on Owens Lake, we would not have enough water available for both the agricultural/ranching economy and environmental obligations in this Valley. We needed to inform all of the lessees as soon as possible about this dire situation.
As for our numbers provided in the Operations Plan, every year water engineers across the globe account for a certain amount of losses from snow pack to tap. These losses can be attributed to ground infiltration, evaporation, plant transpiration, etc. This year, LADWP’s Water Engineers predicted a loss of 119,400 acre feet as this water seeps into the ground of the Owens Valley, evaporates into the air of the Owens Valley, is transpired by plants in the Owens Valley, and is used by private landholders in the Owens Valley.
To put that into context, during the last runoff year – the second-lowest year ever – 147,000 acre feet was lost due to these miscellaneous uses and losses. The Inyo/Los Angeles Water Agreement signed in 1991 by both the City of Los Angeles and the County accounted for 122,000 acre feet for these uses and losses. Both the City and County have operated under this mutually agreed upon expectation, derived from historical averages, for over twenty years. LADWP’s predicted loss amount is considerably less than last year’s actual losses. Meaning LADWP’s meager predictions for available water in the Valley and for export may be further reduced as the year progresses.
Each Annual Operations Plan is calculated using a runoff-year, April 1 through March 31. In order to account for our annual allotment numbers, predictions must be made for the second half of the runoff year, October through March. In our predictions LADWP is forecasting normal winter precipitation levels during the remainder of this runoff year. The 2015-16 Plan states LADWP will deliver 42,000 acre feet of water from the Eastern Sierra to LA this runoff year (10,000 of which is already in storage from previous years and is not a result of current runoff). This represents only about 15 percent of the Eastern Sierra water that is typically exported to Los Angeles. However, if we do not achieve normal precipitation levels during that period, then less water will come down the creeks next winter and less will be available to the Owens Valley and Los Angeles.
Although this reality is far from ideal for any of us, it has resulted in a positive outcome to address this critical situation in the near term thanks to responses from the community, the Inyo County Board of Supervisors and Great Basin.
For better or worse, Los Angeles is connected to the Eastern Sierra by the aqueduct that binds us. We are a huge part of the Valley’s history, the reason for its pristine present, and a valuable partner in the shaping of its successful future.
This is the worst drought on record. Los Angeles is feeling its impacts just like the Owens Valley, and the rest of California. We are all in this together. If we continue to work collaboratively, listen to one another and accept the current reality, together we can develop productive solutions to this unprecedented situation. Let’s make history together.

Amanda Parsons is the Public Relations Representative from the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power in the Owens Valley. If you have any questions regarding this issue or any LADWP operations, please don’t hesitate to contact her. She can be reached at 760-873-0264 or

ladwp, drought 2015, owens valley news, eastern sierra news, amanda parsons

Ranch water will flow

LADWP will not cut irrigation water

The Los Angeles Department of Water and Power has rescinded a proposed irrigation water cut off to Owens Valley lessees. Just prior to Tusday’s Inyo supervisors water workshop word came down of the LADWP’s proposal to cut water to local ranchers May 1st due to the severity of this year’s record drought. Now May 1st has arrived and LADWP spokesperson Amanda Parsons is confirming that the water will continue to flow to local ranchers. Parsons credits the “Collaboration with local partners” for allowing the LADWP flexibility with how they distribute water for invalley uses. The LADWP is under legal obligation to provide water for various enhancement and mitigation projects, including but not limited to the Owens Lake and Lower Owens River Project.

Monday the Inyo County/Los Angeles Department of Water and Power Technical Group will meet at 8:30 a.m. in the DWP Multi-Purpose Room at 300 Mandich Street, Bishop. The meeting will include a discussion of the 2015-2016 Annual Owens Valley Operations Plan, and a discussion of water distribution for irrigation and other environmental projects in the Owens Valley. The public will be offered the opportunity to comment on each agenda item prior to any action. There will also be a public comment period to open the Monday meeting.



The Owens Valley Committee Meets

Letter from the OVC:
The Owens Valley Committee met Wednesday to discuss short-term solutions for getting water to the valley’s ranchers. The group called this emergency meeting in reaction to Los Angeles Department of Water and Power’s letter of April 27, which notified valley ranchers they’d be cut off from all irrigation water starting May 1.
OVC has been aware for quite some time that ranchers are being squeezed by LADWP. In its December 2014 newsletter, OVC wrote,
LADWP has long seen ranch water as a waste. Over the last several years, they have attempted to coerce ranchers and farmer to reduce water use by financial incentives, and have successfully petitioned the County to reduce irrigation duty to 3 acre feet by the use of sprinklers on some parcels. ‘Water conservation’ has become a euphemism for exporting more water to Los Angeles.’ ‘Saving’ ranch water isn’t a good thing in the Owens Valley. When a rancher irrigates with ditches, riparian habitat is formed, not only along the ditch, but through ‘tail water,’ or water at the end of the ditch that extends beyond the official irrigated parcel. [‘Saving’ water] eliminates tail water and destroys riparian and meadow habitat that has been irrigated for decades, as well as killing the tree and shrub hedgerows between fields.
Pressuring ranchers about water use is nothing new for LADWP. Deciding to cut off irrigation water entirely, however, is one of LADWP’s most obvious, glaring violations of the Long Term Water Agreement to date. Though LADWP rescinded this action on April 29, OVC is seriously concerned that LADWP has set an alarming precedent for future moves against Owens Valley agriculture. Ranchers and farmers are important contributors to Owens Valley’s economy, as well as stewards of the land. Agriculture is the second largest economic driver in Inyo County. $19.8 million in economic contribution, or 77% of total agricultural production, is dependent on irrigation. Ranchers’ entire livelihoods are at risk if they do not receive the water promised by the Long Term Water Agreement. Bankruptcy of ranch owners means long term “water savings” for LADWP because there is no guarantee that the DWP will spread water as effectively as Owens Valley ranchers doing their day to day jobs.
Confusing and inconsistent numbers regarding water storage and supply were circulated at the “Talking Water Workshop” on April 28th in the Inyo County Board of Supervisors chambers. The OVC would like to know the exact figures regarding water amounts LADWP has in storage at Crowley, Pleasant Valley, and Tinnemaha Reservoirs. DWP is planning to send about 42,000 acre feet to Los Angeles this year. The reservoirs upstream of the Owens Valley could supply some of that water to ranchers instead.
Some options the Owens Valley Committee discussed Wednesday were:
1. Lowering the minimum flow in the Lower Owens River Project (LORP) from 40 to as low as 30 cubic feet per second (cfs) for the remainder of the run-off year. This water would be reallocated to in-valley use.
2. Reductions in flows to the Owens Lake delta during the irrigation season. This water would be reallocated for in-valley use.

OVC will only consider options that guarantee re-allocated water remains in the Owens Valley.  The Owens Valley has been in an artificial drought since the early 1900s when the City of Los Angeles began exporting water south. This drought intensified in 1972 when LADWP began heavily pumping groundwater and sending it down a second barrel of the aqueduct. Predictably, increased water export spurred increased growth—including water-guzzling lawns, ponds, golf courses, swimming pools, etc.—in the naturally arid Los Angeles basin and surrounding area, and created more of a thirst for Owens Valley water. Like many western cities, Los Angeles has created a problem for itself by actively encouraging a “need” for more and more water.
The Owens Valley Committee appreciates any actions taken to cut back on water usage in Los Angeles—but the City needs to do more. In deciding to issue a letter to Owens Valley ranchers cutting off their access to irrigation water on May 1, LADWP took unilateral and unquestionably illegal action in direct violation of the Long Term Water Agreement and 1991 EIR. This is not a legitimate option. The Owens Valley has been living in an artificial LA-imposed drought for more than a century. The burden of sacrifice during this state-wide drought should not fall on the shoulders of Owens Valley’s ranchers, thereby causing more damage to the valley’s already severely depleted ecosystem. The burden of sacrifice should fall on the shoulders of the City of Los Angeles.

cover photo by Gary Young.

ladwp, inyo county, drought 2015, owens valley committee, eastern sierra news