SACRAMENTO — The Assembly Ways and Means Committee approved legislation Wednesday designed to curtail pumping by Los Angeles from the streams that feed into Mono Lake.
The bill would require the state Department of Water Resources to enter agreements with the city to protect and preserve the Mono Lake area.
As part of the agreement, the legislation by Assemblyman Phil Isenberg (D-Sacramento), requires that the two parties establish a water level for the lake that would preserve its environment and provide permanent protection for the nesting and migratory birds that inhabit its islands.
City officials, who have opposed the measure, said the effect of that provision would be to force the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power to curtail its pumping.
A separate bill authored by Assemblyman William Baker (R-Danville) and also approved by the committee, provides a $100-million fund that the department could draw on to help the city find alternative sources for water.
The two bills are designed to end a longstanding dispute between city officials and environmentalists in the Mono Lake area who have accused Los Angeles of destroying the lake by pumping from streams that feed into it.
As the city continues to pump from the area, environmentalists complain that lake levels continue to drop, endangering the fish and other wildlife in and around the briny waters.
City officials, citing scientific studies financed by the water department, argue that the Mono Basin ecosystem is healthy and productive and would remain so for many years even if lake levels dropped further.
The two bills are expected to go to the floor of the Assembly next week. Ron Cagle, a lobbyist for the city, said Isenberg is still working on proposed changes that could remove the city's opposition.
The Mono Lake Basin on the eastern slope of the Sierra Nevada is currently the source of about one-seventh of Los Angeles' water supply.