Flawed agreement and tule idea

I wrote a letter to the Board of Supervisors, middle of March, regarding appointment to the Water Commission, and I’d like to revise that letter for ideas of recreation on the LORP and the Countys relationship with LADWP.

– I remember voting for the Groundwater Pumping Ordinance in 1980, creating the Water Department and Water Commission. Citizens finally stood up to DWP, and we found our voice opposing their strong-arm tactics and domination of the valley and Inyo County.

Some years later, I see four areas where the subsequent Water Agreement has not worked for residents of the Owens Valley.

First is the organization of the Standing Committee. Those of us in the valley affected by the agreement have practically no voice in the process of managing our most valuable resource: water. The make-up for Inyo County on the Standing Committee is two positions from the Water Commission, one Supervisor, and three staff members.

This part of the agreement is something only a lawyer could love – very little outside participation and each side gets one vote. The formation of this committee effectively eliminates any opposition, as only the majority opinion is expressed on each side.

As for Inyo, staff under the direction of the BoS will always be in the majority, and citizens are relegated to minority status as appointed members, serving at the pleasure of the Board. I dont have to be a rocket scientist to figure out what little voice we gained with the groundwater pumping ordinance is now muted by the Water Agreement and so-called Standing Committee.

The second area of concern is land sale/transfers. There was an auction, March 23, that did little to transfer land to private parties. However, I can think of 3 developed pieces of property in Independence – the Pines Caf, Lions Club House and the bank/doctor’s office building across from the Courthouse – that DWP said would some day be sold. Why were they not included in this latest auction? Undeveloped land is good, but developed land is better, especially when we look at the viability and sustainability of our communities.

Releasing developed property within our towns might help rekindle the energy necessary to build business, especially in Independence. I don’t know anyone who thinks a boarded-up Pines Caf is what we need.

The third area is money. If DWP were a corporation, like Crystal Geyser, how much do you think they would have to pay for the export of domestic water from the Owens River and valley groundwater mining? Water is Inyo County’s greatest resource, and we receive a paltry sum from DWP for its use and export.

DWP manager, David Freeman, proclaimed on January 12, 2010 to the Board: “We stole the water.” LA continues to steal water and profit in the hundreds of millions of dollars on an annual basis. The agreement only calls for the payment of $2M plus to Inyo, with adjustments on a yearly basis. DWP has exported water from Inyo County for a century and not paid a fair and just price for any of it. Locals, however, have paid handsomely. This huge disparity needs to be addressed.

The fourth issue concerns the Lower Owens River. It’s a tremendous project and a global show-case for the agreement. However, the agreement states that a clear channel be kept open along 62 miles of river habitat. Tules have interfered with that vision. Everyone needs to brainstorm for a solution to the tule infestation.

One idea I’ve had is to use an underwater, steel-bladed, brush-whacker mounted on the front of a pontoon water-craft, cutting the tule below water level, gathering the reeds to distill into ethanol, or chopping-up to decompose on the Owens Lake bed. If we are to develop recreation on the river and keep the channel open, we have to clear a path through the tules.

I like the combination gravel/cement DWP is spreading on some of the dirt roads outside Independence to keep down the dust. Something like that might work on the dry lake.

Jack Pound

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