Was there something prophetic, perhaps, about the giant thunderhead that camped over the Los Angeles Aqueduct late last week dumping rain that swept tons of mud, rock and other debris into the canal that is the water lifeline for 3 million Angelenos? As it happened, nature shut off the water just as the people of the Owens Valley were deciding whether to approve a second attempt to reach a long-term agreement with the City of Los Angeles over how much water the city Department of Water and Power could extract from the valley and send south.
And, as it happened, the tropical clouds wrought their wrath on the aqueduct just as negotiators in Sacramento reached tentative agreement on limiting the city' diversion of water from the Mono Lake basin just north of the Owens Valley, and providing a means for the city to buy replacement water elsewhere.
Just coincidence, of course. But, in fact, the storm may symbolize the unspoken undercurrent of hostility in the sparsely populated eastern Sierra region against the City of Los Angeles more emphatically than the public comments about the two related water issues. The opposition that erupted this spring against the first Los Angeles-Inyo County draft agreement on the city's pumping of water from the Owens Valley was surprisingly intense. That sent county and city negotiators back to the bargaining table. The new plan that emerged this past week was considerably improved from the standpoint of the 20,000 or so residents of sprawling Inyo County. Barring surprises, it will win approval from the Inyo County Board of Supervisors at a meeting Tuesday and then go before the Department of Water and Power's governing board and the Los Angeles City Council for ratification. The new plan gives Inyo County considerably more authority to curtail or halt the city's pumping from Owens Valley aquifers if there is direct evidence that the water table is being depleted to the extent that the valley's sparse vegetation is drying up. A primary goal of the pact is to prevent further damage than has been caused in 75 years of Los Angeles water withdrawals from the Owens Valley. That is a major victory when viewed in the perspective of recent years. And much will be heard from the city in the future about the sacrifices it must make in both water and money to satisfy Inyo County's demands.