LA Times reveals identity of 1976 aqueduct bombers

latimesbombingBack in 1976 when John Heston and Benett Kessler started Eastern Sierra News Service, a drought hit the Eastern Sierra and so did major political controversy over the Department of Water and Power’s aggressive groundwater pumping. It was the fall of that year when two young, local men bombed the Alabama Gates, part of the LA Aqueduct. Their identities were not publicly discussed – one of them was a juvenile – and Kessler said that privately the two suspects were heralded as heroes. Wednesday, LA Times reporter Louis Sahagun revealed the whole story on the men who dynamited the aqueduct.,0,7855162.htmlstory#axzz2jEiNWvzK

Sahagun sat down with Mark Berry, who decided to go public with his story. He was 17 at the time of the bombing. Reporter Sahagun wrote that Berry and his 20-year-old friend, Robert Howe, broke into an Inyo County building where they found a box of dynamite. The Times story tells how the young men were angry about how DWP was drying up the Owens Valley. That’s not a new theme for the area where bombings of the aqueduct were numerous in the 20s and 30s after installation of the aqueduct in 1913, and after major diversion of streams, and the start of groundwater pumping.

The violence had stopped, but with renewed concern about the environment in 1976, the filing of an environmental lawsuit by Inyo County, and consistent news reporting about LADWP’s activities, the populace grew angry.

Reporter Sahagun wrote about how the young men blew up the Alabama Gates, and how locals secretly cheered them on. The pair went through the legal system, according to the Times, with limited penalties. The story says Mark Berry moved away from the area but returned in 2000. Ironically, he now works for DWP.

Sahagun’s story comes at a time when LADWP celebrates the 100th anniversary of the aqueduct. Other stories and opinion pieces are expected in the Times, including an op-ed piece by Bill Kahrl, the author of “Water and Power.”



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27 Responses to LA Times reveals identity of 1976 aqueduct bombers

  1. Trouble October 30, 2013 at 10:03 pm #

    To tell you how our times have changed, they 17 year old got 30 days and the 20 year old got 90 days. Think what they would get now?????

  2. Big Rick OBrien October 30, 2013 at 11:59 pm #

    Definition of irony…

  3. Philip Anaya October 31, 2013 at 6:49 am #

    Todays dynamite in dealing with an Institution like the DWP needs to be a constant educated vigilant oversight of the activities of that Institution. There needs to be actions such as becoming involved in the public discussion and decision making activities that will preserve what has been millions of years in the making. There needs to be actions taken that will have a lasting effect and preservation of the Valley for hundreds of years not just an event that puts a temporary hole in the Ditch.

    • Mongo The Idiot October 31, 2013 at 9:51 am #

      I feel hopeless, I believe that the valley is doomed. Soon technology will solve the water and power problems and massive tracts of houses will go in. DWP will become a realtor and maximize profits on their real estate investment.
      I may stop blogging and go outside so I can enjoy it before it’s gone.
      Our wilderness is disappearing faster than they are making it.

      • Desert Tortoise October 31, 2013 at 1:04 pm #

        And what do you imagine the Owens Valley might look like had not the DWP bought the land and water rights they bought 100 years ago? Owens Valley would be far more developed and urbanized than it is now. The much reviled DWP is the primary reason this valley has remained rural and lightly developed. Do you imagine for a minute any entity in the valley could hold off the interests of developers? Not a chance. At least DWP has enough muscle (because big nasty old LA is beind them and LA is nothing if not economically and politcally powerful) to keep the valley like it is today.

        Be glad for what you have now because without DWPs stewardship, for all it’s warts, the Owens Valley would look a lot worse than it does.

        • Benett Kessler October 31, 2013 at 1:12 pm #

          That’s an old argument and debatable. We don’t really know specifically what would have happened had all or part of our water remained here. It might be a lush agricultural area with some development. We are too remote, with no rail lines, to develop big city commerce. It sure would be nice to have some development adjacent to towns which are already developed to allow more people and more services. DWP left us with tourism and that’s it. Remember, the Owens Valley does not look like it did 100 years ago in spite of Mr. Yannotta’s statement.
          Benett Kessler

          • Big Rick OBrien October 31, 2013 at 10:16 pm #

            Bennett, there USED to be rail lines, but they were scrapped in the 50’s. Remember the opening of “Bad Day at Black Rock”? The Southern Pacific running north-bound from Mojave , parallel with 395, stopping at the Lone Pine siding, before continuing on to Bishop ? I realize it was just a movie , but the train and the rail line was real. Without the commerce, the line had run it’s course and was junked. I’ve ridden that line on 2 wheels, all the way from Mojave to Hawthorne and it (used to be) a damn good place to find those illusive purple bottles.

          • Benett Kessler November 1, 2013 at 8:09 am #

            Yes, I do remember the rail lines, the depot at Lone Pine. Yes, they were abandoned when the Valley’s agriculture dried up.

          • Trouble November 1, 2013 at 6:43 am #

            We had a rail line? But, I still don’t understand why we don’t try to expand all of our cities in Inyo say one mile out?

          • Benett Kessler November 1, 2013 at 8:11 am #

            LA owns the land, and Inyo officials have never really pushed for it.

          • Desert Tortoise November 1, 2013 at 7:12 am #

            All you have to do is look at the San Joaquin Valley to see what would have happened. If you think farmers are any more concerned about the environmental effects of water diversion, all you need to do is look at what the Friant Dam and associated Friant Kern Canal have done to the San Joaquin River. It is now dry from the bottom of the dam all the way to within 75 miles of the Sacramento Delta (because the farmers on that last 75 miles of the San Joaquin river had senior water rights, the Army had to build a canal fro the Sacramento River, the Mendota Canal, to bring water up and dump it into that last 75 miles of the San Joaquin River to provide enough water to meet the needs of those farmers). All the riparian wet lands that used to comprise the center of the San Joaquin Valley, “swampy wastelands” in the old view of it, were draind and farmed.

            Similarly the bed of Buena Vista Lake immediately west of Bakersfield is dry. The Kern River was dammed and diverted into irrigation canals for the farmers, and the water that used to enter Buena Vista Lake is gone. Most years the Kern River is dry below the diversion dam at the bottom of the gorge.

            All you have to do is drive around places like Arvin and Delano, or Fallon NV or the Carson Valley to see how the Owens Valley would look if LADWP didn’t own the land and the water.

          • Benett Kessler November 1, 2013 at 8:11 am #

            That’s one view.

          • Desert Tortoise November 1, 2013 at 9:09 am #

            Eh, deregulation of the trucking industries followed by deregulation of the rail industry in the 1980’s are the two events that ended the profitability of eastern Sierra Nevada rail lines.

            Before deregulation of trucking, the ICC regulated the rates truck companies could charge, their routes, regulated what companies could haul freight across state lines (applications sat for many years before the ICC would allow a new entrant to cross state lines legally) and the ICC regulated the rates and shipping schedules of truck companies. This all ended during the 1970’s and trucking began to compete against rail roads in earnest.

            Likewise the ICC used to regulate railroads heavily, just as with trucking, controlling their route structure, schedules and rates. Agricultural products were, by law, shipped at artificially low rates while other freight had to chager higher rates. Railroads were guaranteed a set profit per year (around 14% I believe). This regulatory process was initiated a century ago because the Federal Government was afraid the rail industry was undergoing a series of bankruptcies and the Federal Government feared a rail monopoly could result (meaning high prices and limited service). They were especially keen to protect the ability of farmers to ship their products on the rails inexpensively.

            All of that went out the window with the 1980’s deregulation of the railroads. Trucking replaced rail roads hauling farm commodities because their service was less costly and much faster than rail. Keep in mind that farm products had to ride a truck from the field to the rail road and from the rail road to the customer anyway, so it ended up being a good deal more efficient and less costly to cut rail out of the picture entirely.

            That, and not anything the DWP did or did not do is the reason those rail lines became uneconomical to operate.

          • Benett Kessler November 1, 2013 at 10:43 am #

            I appreciate your information which undoubtedly highly influenced the profitability of the rails, but historical accounts say that the gradual end to the Owens Valley agricultural business, which had meant shippping of produce both north and south, also contributed to the demise of rail.
            Benett Kessler

          • Desert Tortoise November 1, 2013 at 12:18 pm #

            You might have an argument except for the detail that railroads throughout the region were closed and their tracks removed. There were rail lines all the way from Reno north to Oregon east of the Sierra Nevada and Cascades, but north Sierra Army Depot next to Honey Lake they are all gone. Like here all yo see is the former rail bed raised above the surrounding terrain. Likewise with rail lines in Nevada. All that remain are the main lines crossing the state along I-80 carrying container traffic out of Bay Area ports to destinations east and the tourist railroad in Ely (I think it’s called the Nevada Northern or something similar) that is the remnant of the line that used to service the Owens Valley.

            Did those lines also go away because of a decline in agricultural output in the Owens Valley? No, there were far larger forces in effect, and the absolute only reason you still have any rail lines to the Susanville/Honey Lake area is to service Sierra Army Depot.

          • Benett Kessler November 1, 2013 at 12:27 pm #

            Dear DT, You don’t have to always prove other people totally wrong in order to prove you are right.

          • Mark November 1, 2013 at 2:51 pm #

            The Slim Princess was built to service the mineral resource industries and this is why it ran down the less habitable east side of the valley which made it a outing for most Owen’s Valley residence to just get to the railroad.. The slowdown of mining also had a lot to do with the end of the railroad.

            I remember when the rail crossed 395 South of LIttle Lake, it was a rough crossing and many hubcaps were knocked off of rims at that crossing. The desert was littered with them.

        • Mongo The Idiot October 31, 2013 at 2:15 pm #

          “And what do you imagine the Owens Valley might look like had not the DWP bought the land and water rights they bought 100 years ago?”

          Three to ten million dollar homes in the Alabama’s, Golf courses, country clubs and polo fields. Big box stores and metroplex move theaters. A tram way to the top of Mt Whitney. Slums, buses, traffic lights and litter. Private schools for the privileged and public ones for the unfortunate. Car dealerships, antique malls, law offices and U-Haul moving centers. Incorporated towns, several police departments, and a homeless center. A yacht club at Owens Lake with slips and mooring. A 12 lane freeway with a green belt on each side. A place few of us could afford. A KSRW entertainment center with its own symphony orchestra. Fufu restaurants serving diminutive portions of nouveau cuisine in the same block with Souplantation and Panda express; more Thai restaurants. Bishop would have 30 story buildings and Paiute Palace would have all you can eat buffets featuring shrimp and lobster. Fancy cigar stores, builders centers, gardeners with blowers… etc etc etc……

          I am grateful we don’t have this, just afraid I am going to loose it.

          • Mongo The Idiot October 31, 2013 at 2:27 pm #

            My long term prediction for the valley is that technology eventually solves the water and power issues that make it so attractive to DWP. At that point much of the land will be developed to accommodate the growing population. The mountains are world class, you could trash the valley floor and still sell the view and nearby recreation. I say it happens in the next 50 to 150 years.

          • Wayne Deja October 31, 2013 at 6:29 pm #

            Mongo….You forgot about the two or three “medical marijuana” stores,complete with the so-called “doctors” and staff……and,of course,a few more taverns and bars,and maybe an all-night dance establishment…aptly named “the Owens Valley club”……You say in 50 to 150 years….glad I won’t be around to see it…

          • Desert Tortoise November 2, 2013 at 9:32 pm #

            Nah, if the Owens Valley had developed as a major agricultural region Bishop would look more like Wasco or Arvin than anything so upscale as you describe.

  4. Mark October 31, 2013 at 1:49 pm #

    “Ironically, he now works for DWP.”

    You got to be kidding, but I know you’re not. 😉

  5. Trouble October 31, 2013 at 1:49 pm #

    Mongo- I doubt sells much land around here in our life time. Water rights , power and control bubba!

  6. enoughalready October 31, 2013 at 4:36 pm #

    What would Hayduke have done?
    Who is Hayduke?
    Time to go read a book.

    Is The Monkey Wrench Gang available on Kindle?
    What would Edward say about that?

  7. Philip Anaya October 31, 2013 at 7:14 pm #

    The most important part of this Story are the Kids. Tonight as the tricker treaters are at our doors, we are seeing our future. I’m thinking that they are being raised to do anything in the world that they can envision. I’m thinking that Parents are striving for their children to become doctors, scientists , social workers , school teachers, engineers, builders , leaders ,PTA presidents , good parents, uncles and aunts. One of these kids just might become the General Manager of the DWP. That’s whats’ this story in the LA Times needs to say . It’s not just about the DWP . It’s about the future of this wonderous Owens Valley and the people both young and old who are lucky to be living here. DT, Don’t forget that the future starts from this moment forward. The past, the woulda , shoulda serves us lessons for that future. Some Valleys and some Mountains just need to go on and on. We still have the ability to and the responsibility to make the best choices , for ourselves and all those who have yet to have the that ability and the choice to take on that responsibility.

  8. Mark November 1, 2013 at 10:31 am #

    “We had a rail line? ”

    I’m continuely amazed at how little most know about the area they live in. The Owen’s Valley has some interesting history, I suggest reading everything you can about it. You will find it enjoyable, interesting, and educational.

  9. salblaster November 2, 2013 at 11:09 am #

    at mark. thats funny you remember the railroad crossing south of little lake. that rough bump knocked the driveline off my buddies chevelle on a hot summer day in the early 80’s,and we had to walk to pearsonville to get parts. no one would pick us up, probably because we looked like long haired heavymetal rockers. now days my ears grow more hair than my head.


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