Aqueduct Manager responds to statement that OV has not changed in 100 years

DWP Aqueduct Manager James Yannotta

DWP Aqueduct Manager James Yannotta

Those who have witnessed past decades in the Owens Valley have seen trees die, orchards disappear, meadows turn to scrub brush, springs dry up, groundwater plummet, and the Owens Lake vanish.  In spite of those facts, Department of Water and Power Aqueduct Manager Jim Yannotta told Sierra Wave Media that “essentially the Owens Valley looks the same as it did 100 years ago.”

Tuesday, November 5th marked the 100th anniversary of the Los Angeles Aqueduct; and when asked why he said nothing has changed here in 100 years, DWP Manager Jim Yannotta said his statement was “more in line with how DWP has preserved the Owens Valley.” Yannotta admitted that he does not have “all of the facts of 100 years ago.”

Yannotta said the Owens Valley is “preserved” and not developed. Not like Fresno or Lake Havasu, he said. The manager maintained that LA is working with Owens Valley on environmental issues. When asked about the number of disputes and disagreements over water and the environment, Yannotta said, “I don’t share those views. We do our obligations under the Water Agreement. We’ve done a good job of management,” he said, “and there is not adverse environmental damage.”

However, records show that Inyo County has disagreed with how LA sees things. DWP has not accounted for the obvious damage done between 1913 and 1987, which is the baseline year in the Long-Term Water Agreement.  More recently, Inyo takes issue with how DWP has cut irrigation water for some lessees and other water uses on LA land with respect to the Water Agreement. The two sides are in dispute resolution over at least two wellfields. Inyo County maintains DWP’s pumps have damaged the environment of Black Rock and Sawmill.

DWP has also failed to successfully work with Inyo to come up with a pumping management plan. LA refuses to admit that how far the water table goes should determine when pumps are shut off. Both sides admit that the Water Agreement plan has failed. To make up for past environmental damage, DWP agreed to mitigation projects, some of which have not been completed since the 1991 agreement was signed.

Mr. Yannotta says water levels have recovered from LA’s over-pumping in the 80s. Water Department records say otherwise. The Water Agreement only calls for a return of groundwater to 1987 baseline levels which are far below original water tables.  Yannotta admitted there are some mitigation projects unfinished and some disputes. He did say he would be open to DWP and Inyo working together on a revision of pumping management. Nothing along those lines was accomplished in the years before Yannotta arrived.

As for the earlier threat that LA might charge a lot more for water at the two Inyo golf courses, Yannotta said that issue is still in the works. He said the goal is to get the golf courses to use less water.

As for his inaccurate claim that nothing has changed in 100 years, Mr. Yannotta said he apologizes if this offended anyone.


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22 Responses to Aqueduct Manager responds to statement that OV has not changed in 100 years

  1. Trouble November 5, 2013 at 1:30 pm #

    I think” bonehead” describes this dude!

  2. Clyde A. November 5, 2013 at 1:56 pm #

    Funny how when the DWP wanted to charge Bishop Country club for water they quikly recanted it when it was made public that the pump supplying the club water also adds water to the aquaduct. This gives the DWP water off of the Bishop cone where they are not supposed to get any water. DWP will do anything to get water out of the Owens valley!

  3. Mongo The Idiot November 5, 2013 at 5:57 pm #

    Here is where I stopped reading, ” We’ve done a good job of management and there is not adverse environmental damage.”

    LADWP dried up 100 square mile Owens lake so LA folk could have trees and 30 gallon per year per square foot lawns.
    LA’s excess was our surplus.

    You could ask one million people about this and very few would agree with your statement.

  4. Charles O. Jones November 5, 2013 at 6:05 pm #

    The DWP is big business and like many businesses, they want to be profitable above all else. Like any big business, the DWP needs to be watched like a hawk and held accountable.

    That being said, I see the DWP is the lesser of two evils. I cringe at the thought of what the region may look like today had all the land controlled by DWP been in private hands for the last 100 years.

    • Desert Tortoise November 7, 2013 at 8:00 am #

      The DWP is not a business. It is a department of a city government, a city owned utility answerable to their City Council and is prohibited by law from operating for a profit. Edison and PG&E are investor owned utilities that operate at a profit, and not surprisingly charge their customers much per KwHr than DWP does.

      DWP, along with several other major departments are much more independent of the mayor than is typical of other large cities due to a charter adopted in the 1920’s that was designed to prevent the sort of corrupt patronage prevelant in LA before charter reform. Harbor Dept, Airports, Police, Fire, DWP all have a degree of autonomy not found in other cities and this is to help prevent mayors from awarding patronage jobs to political supporters and the resulting corruption of these departments. But “big business”? No. They are a government agency.

      • Charles O. Jones November 7, 2013 at 5:08 pm #

        From DWP:

        “As a revenue-producing proprietary department, the LADWP transfers a portion of its annual estimated electric revenues to the City of Los Angeles general fund. LADWP’s operations are financed solely by the sale of water and electric services.”

        The fact that the DWP doesn’t technically “profit” from their water and power sales doesn’t change the reality that they are in fact “big business” in many practical senses. As are many other not for profit entities.

  5. Big Rick OBrien November 5, 2013 at 10:37 pm #

    Bennett, what is your take on the legend of the Belshaw loaves that that went down with the Bessie Brady during a storm on Owens Lake ? Has it ever been confirmed, or is it just another “urban legend” ?

  6. MJA November 6, 2013 at 8:46 am #

    A ground water pumping plan based on a minimum ground water depth, a water depth that sustains or maintains the Owens Valley, is the only water agreement that will work, Much like Mono Lake and its agreement, a minimum ground water level must be implemented for the health and future of the Owens Valley. Anything else is dust in the wind. =

  7. Desert Tortoise November 6, 2013 at 5:01 pm #

    I have said it before and will say it again, the Boards of Supervisors for Inyo and Mono Counties need to have representation at every DWP board meeting, including videos of the comments their officials make so there is no denial, and those comments need to be challenged at DWP board meetings in Los Angeles. Anything said up here is wasted breath. The words have to be spoken in Los Angeles if you wish to be taken seriously. LADWP sends their people up here. Inyo and Mono Counties have to do the same.

    • Benett Kessler November 6, 2013 at 6:57 pm #

      That would be nice, but DWP has a lot more money to send people here than we do to send people there.

      • Desert Tortoise November 7, 2013 at 8:03 am #

        How expensive is a night in Travel Lodge, a few meals and gas to and from LA? How much do the supes spend to attend League of California Cities or similar “professional” conferences in Sacramento or San Diego a couple of times a year? That argument falls flat on it’s face.

        • Benett Kessler November 7, 2013 at 8:42 am #

          You might be right, if they had the political will and belief that they could make a difference.
          Benett Kessler

  8. ferdinand lopez November 6, 2013 at 7:26 pm #

    on a recent trip to my relatives home in L.A.,i was amazed to see the ridiculous lawns and waste of water,that kind of stuff bugs me every time.there is no thought to washing down driveways and sidewalks,water rushing down gutters.all lawns should be replaced with gravel or much wiser plants that dont require daily watering

    • Mongo The Idiot November 7, 2013 at 9:04 am #

      Ferdinand, I’m in LA and have a 2400 square foot lawn. 2400 x 30 gallons per square foot per year = 72,000 gallons a year just for my one single family residence. I would plant UC Verde Buffalo grass that uses 1/3 the water or put in decomposed granite except my land lord wont let me.
      There needs to be a statewide law that limits water use for lawns. There is more than enough water wasted in LA to refill Owens Lake. The problem is that LA needs to sell as much water as possible.
      Asking for LA to change is like asking a gold miner to put some gold he found back in the dirt.
      This is a rape.
      This is the destruction of an ecosystem.
      This is government doing exactly what they have made it illegal for us to do.
      This is what their man says; ” We’ve done a good job of management and there is not adverse environmental damage.”
      Oh really… where then did Owens Lake go?
      They speak with fork tongue like the snake or lizard.
      They send their water to the ocean in concrete rivers while they take from somewhere else.

    • Mark November 7, 2013 at 10:38 am #

      it’s a crazy site and they just keep on building where there is no water. At some point water will be such a big issue it will actually stop developement.

      What we need is population control. Perhaps a tax break for having fewer kids is in order.

    • Desert Tortoise November 7, 2013 at 10:41 am #

      You can say that, but the facts show otherwise. LA residents use about 125 gallons of water per person per day, among the lowest usage rates in California. Mono County, by comparison, averages a bit over 400 gallons per day per person.

      This is old data but relavant.:

      The City of LA has lower water use than the county at 125 gpd per person.

      • Benett Kessler November 7, 2013 at 11:07 am #

        Dear LA Booster, water used here goes back into the groundwater and LA gets it anyway. Also, the groundwater in many areas of the Owens Valley has dropped below the rooting zone of plants and we have to water the heck out of our trees and plants to keep them alive.

        What exactly are you trying to prove? That LA is virtuous? They surely should practice severe water conservation. Their water is imported at someone else’s expense. It was the Mono Lake Committee that pushed DWP into conservation mode. I talked to David Gaines about that.

        Benett Kessler

  9. Water Moccasin November 6, 2013 at 8:39 pm #

    Thought live interactive telecasts of LADWP board meetings were to become ongoing.

    • Benett Kessler November 7, 2013 at 8:45 am #

      As far as we know, they still are. Do you have different information?

      • Water Moccasin November 7, 2013 at 12:22 pm #

        Just know that first one happened. Meant to post in above conversation about local officials participating in DWP board meetings. Seems this can be done in Bishop now and our supervisors should be first in line. These telecasts are a good thing done by DWP and currently there is a rare window with Nichols as probably the least politically owned manager in years,

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