Tag Archives: owens valley committee

OVC responds to LA Mayor

Owens Valley Committee Responds to Mayor Garcetti

Owens Valley Committee statement:

“We just made peace with the Owens Valley,” Mayor Garcetti declared in a recent interview with MSNBC reporter Chris Hayes. He went on to state that he wishes to avoid “turning city folk against rural folk,” that Los Angeles has “plenty of water,” and that using water to mitigate dust on the Owens Lake is “stupid.”

We wish it were so. But however much the City’s Mayor wants it, the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (LADWP) continues to wage intense battles to supply a thirsty city.

Instead of a historic truce, we have seen politics as usual. In making his incorrect statements, Mayor Garcetti unwittingly provides yet another example of the problems inherent in Los Angeles’s colonial rule of Owens Valley. Political leaders in Los Angeles rely entirely on the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power for information. Owens Valley residents cannot vote in LA elections and have no elected representatives to provide accurate information to the Mayor and to advocate for our interests.

Without such a voice, peace remains elusive. On April 27, 2015, LADWP announced it would cut off all water to the Valley’s ranchers and farmers. With only three days notice, LADWP not only threatened livelihoods, but also the Valley’s economy, native animals and plants, and its dwindling groundwater supply – all of which depend on the water that flows onto the fields of farmers and ranchers.

The Inyo-LA Long Term Water Agreement – the settlement agreement to which LA is legally bound – does not allow LADWP to unilaterally cut off water. Yet only a threat by Inyo County to seek an immediate injunction forced LADWP to back down, proving, yet again, that it will continue to “turn city folk against rural folk.”

Not only has peace not been made, LADWP is defying the Mayor’s widely publicized goals of “sustainability” and “reducing dependence on imported water.” The Mayor referred to LADWP’s plans to take water that would otherwise restore life in portions of Owens Lake, and send it down the aqueduct instead. If implemented, this plan will increase Los Angeles’s dependence on Owens Valley water instead of reducing it. Mayor Garcetti spoke of sharing Owens Lake water with the Owens Valley, but we have yet to hear that from LADWP. The new wells LADWP plans to drill will also increase Los Angeles’s dependency. While the Mayor calls for sustainability, it is exploitation as usual in the Owens Valley.

Despite claims that LA has “plenty of water,” LADWP continues to dig out seeps and springs, and to pump groundwater that is not being recharged. Meanwhile, vegetation in the Valley is drying up; fish and wildlife habitat is shrinking; farmers and ranchers must cut back crops and cattle; and dust still spews from the Owens Lake.

Some water on the lake bed is essential, and far from “stupid.” Owens Lake was the largest source of particulate pollution in North America, producing lung-scarring dust laced with toxic heavy metals. While there has been significant reduction in the amount of dust from Owens Lake, there are still too many days the dust levels exceed federal and state standards. Water not only keeps the dust down; it creates habitat for birds and other animals, and it covers – without destroying – historical artifacts and markers.

Given all this, we must question whether the “water wars” have indeed reached their end. We appreciate the Mayor’s optimism, and support for water conservation more generally, but achieving an effective truce will require more than good wishes. It requires action – not only on the part of City and County leaders, but by LADWP. For a City with “plenty of water,” and leaders truly hoping to bridge the divide between “city folk and rural folk,” such action should not be too hard.

The Owens Valley Committee is a non-profit (501c3) organization seeking just and sustainable management of Owens Valley land and water resources. We envision a valley in which existing open space is protected, historic land uses sustained, and depleted groundwater reserves and surface water flows restored as Los Angeles phases out its dependence on Owens Valley water.

cover photo by Gary Young.

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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.

 

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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.

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OVC Annual Event Set

Owens Valley Committee Annual Event

The Owens Valley Committee invites you to its annual social event, lecture, and fundraiser on Sunday, April 26, 2015. The gathering will take place from 4:00 to 7:00 p.m. at the Mountain Light Gallery, 106 Main Street in Bishop.
Special guest Bruce Embrey of the Manzanar Committee will be speaking on this year’s theme, “Partnering to Protect Owens Valley.” The event will include live music, hors d’oeuvres and beverages. There will also be a silent auction featuring artwork and crafts by local artists and artisans and much more. A suggested donation of $10 at the door is appreciated.
The Owens Valley Committee is a non-profit organization dedicated to seeking just and sustainable management of Owens Valley land and water resources. OVC envisions a valley in which existing open space is protected, historic uses sustained, and depleted ground water reserves and surface water flows are restored as Los Angeles phases out its dependence on Owens Valley water.
Please join the OVC for an evening of conversation, music, and partnership, set amidst Galen and Barbara Rowell’s stunning photographs of the Owens Valley and beyond.

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