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Lower Owens River Waits for Water

September 18, 2002

Re the Sept. 13 letter from Dominick Rubalcava on the L.A. Department of Water and Power's "commitment" to the Owens Valley, please remember that this commitment is still to take every drop of water possible. No significant DWP environmental project in the Owens Valley came voluntarily. Only litigation or its threat has caused change. Locally, for 90 years, we have attempted negotiation, with little result except more delay.

The lower Owens River re-watering is for damage started in 1970. How long should we wait? On Sept. 12, Judge Edward Denton of the Inyo Superior Court ordered that the DWP complete by Nov. 1 the draft environmental impact report for the re-watering of the lower Owens River. If not met, court sanctions will be considered. Rubalcava's offer of a smaller pump-back station on the river, after agreeing to it in the long-term water agreement, is akin to offering to give back something stolen if the victim will pay money (water).

Rubalcava is correct in saying that L.A. has conserved more water than probably any other city, and for that we thank the citizens of L.A., who own these lands that we all care about.

Michael Prather

President, Owens Valley

Committee, Lone Pine


Los Angeles does not act as if it is truly committed to environmental restoration of the Owens Valley. Commitments for environmental restoration were made by the city in the Inyo-L.A. water agreement, the city's 1991 EIR on groundwater pumping and a 1997 memorandum of understanding with Inyo County and other parties, including the Sierra Club. Is the city really committed to these agreements that ended 25 years of litigation?

More than five years after the agreements have taken effect, little has been done to restore mitigation project sites. Restoration work at Hines Spring and re-greening projects in Big Pine and Independence have not been started. The Big Pine ditch system is still dry. Hundreds of acres in Laws have not been irrigated, in direct violation of the water agreement. Nearly every environmental study the city promised in the 1997 memorandum has been late.

The Sierra Club and other parties to the 1997 memorandum believe that the larger pump station violates the water agreement and would restrict flows to the delta that are necessary to meet habitat goals agreed to in the memorandum. The larger pump station does not make sense economically. It will cost more than it returns to the city unless its real purpose is to export additional ground water from the Owens Valley.

Mark Bagley

MOU Representative

Sierra Club, Bishop

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