According to news reports and Commission meeting minutes, the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power has long used lobbyists and public relations firms to spin legal and political issues its way; but since the tiny Mammoth Community Water District hired a public relations firm to help in its David and Goliath fight with Los Angeles, DWP has accused the District of trying to “snow” the public.
On the heels of last Friday’s Los Angeles Times story on MCWD, a press release was issued Saturday by DWP General Manager Ron Nichols, he bashes Mammoth’s Water District for hiring a PR firm and the LA Times for reporting on LA’s legal attack on Mammoth’s water rights. Nichols said the Times used “many of the baseless arguments set forth by lobbyists and public relations consultants hired by Mammoth’s Water District” at public expense. Nichols’ press release tries hard to convince that DWP is not trying to take Mammoth’s water.
Nichols claims that DWP is “in no way attempting to deny water to the Town of Mammoth Lakes.” Although, six months ago, LA did launch a legal attack on Mammoth’s surface water in two lawsuits, claiming senior rights to Mammoth’s.
In what some have called a bipolar press release, Nichols insists LA does not want to take Mammoth’s water and then chastises Mammoth for using LA’s water. Which is it? At one point Nichols said LA wants to “share” water with Mammoth. Then he says LA has no obligation to “provide free water to Mammoth Community Water District.”
Nichols further contradicts himself when he says Mammoth knows it’s position is groundless and is using public relations to “camouflage” its lack of water rights. Finally, Nichols gets around to saying LA will negotiate with Mammoth toward a compromise. He says both sides are in search of a “suitable resolution that would enable LADWP to retain its water while meeting the needs of Mammoth.”
The idea of meeting LA’s needs and Mammoth’s would likely be as successful as the Inyo-LA Long Term Water Agreement. The goal of that deal is to meet LA’s needs and preserve Inyo’s environment. Inyo officials continue to be embroiled in numerous disputes with LA over water.
After he assures that LA does not want to “grab” Mammoth’s water, Manager Nichols says LA water customers cannot continue to “subsidize Mammoth’s water bills.” Nichols said Mammoth customers wouldn’t have to pay that much more to compensate LA for its water. He says a typical monthly bill would go from $24 to$35.
In a press release full of conflicted statements, Nichols concludes that LADWP “has no intention, nor any desire to deprive the citizens of Mammoth of water.” Nichols said no amount of “misinformed public relations efforts can change these facts.” What he doesn’t say is the only conclusion evident from his press release is that LA has sued Mammoth, if not to outright take its water supply, then to hold a gun to the community’s head for money.