LADWP/GBAPCD settle lawsuits over dust control and look forward to more use of waterless control methods without harming wildlife

drylakedust1.jpgCity of Los Angeles and Great Basin Unified Air Pollution Control District Reach Historic Comprehensive Agreement on Owens Lake Dust Mitigation
LOS ANGELES and BISHOP, CA – Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, LA City Attorney Mike Feuer, DWP Commission President Mel Levine and Owens Valley air pollution control representatives Ron Hames, Linda Arcularius and Matt Kingsley announced today that the City of Los Angeles and the Great Basin Unified Air Pollution Control District (Great Basin) have reached an historic agreement over the implementation of dust control measures on Owens Lake.
The successes achieved at controlling dust at Owens Lake have come at a real cost to Angelenos.  Currently, the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (LADWP) uses about 25 billion gallons of water annually and has spent $1.3 billion since 2000 to control dust at Owens Lake. The equivalent of nearly two months out of every Los Angeles ratepayer’s annual water bill is spent on Owens Lake dust mitigation, including the cost of replacing the water used there.
Today’s agreement will allow the LADWP to use waterless dust control methods, including tillage, at Owens Lake, resulting in significant water and monetary savings for Los Angeles. The agreement also provides Los Angeles with the certainty of knowing the full extent of its liability for dust mitigation at Owens Lake. Great Basin will also maintain its full regulatory authority with the assurance that LADWP will continue to meet its obligations to control dust on Owens Lake.
“After years of conflict, we finally have an agreement that will save billions of gallons of water and millions of dollars for LADWP ratepayers and will address environmental issues at Owens Lake,” said Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti.  “With this agreement, Los Angeles is taking its responsibility seriously at Owens Lake, while saving money and allowing more water to flow to Los Angeles to help our city respond to our record drought.  This is a significant win for ratepayers and our environment in both Los Angeles and the Owens Valley.”
“Today is a victory for LA’s ratepayers and for Owens Valley residents,” said City Attorney Mike Feuer.  “By collaborating rather than fighting, we will reduce water usage, contain costs and improve air quality near Owens Lake.”
Mayor Garcetti and City Attorney Mike Feuer were joined by City Councilmember Felipe Fuentes, Los Angeles Board of Water and Power Commissioners President Mel Levine, LADWP Commission Vice President Bill Funderburk, LADWP General Manager Marcie Edwards, Alpine County Supervisor and Great Basin Unified Air Pollution Control District Board President Ron Hames, Inyo County Supervisor and Great Basin Air Pollution Control District Board Member Linda Arcularius, Inyo County Supervisor and Great Basin Air Pollution Control District Board Member Matt Kingsley and Great Basin Unified Air Pollution Control Officer Ted Schade for the announcement at a news conference in Los Angeles.

The agreement was reached following years of negotiations between the parties over LADWP’s responsibility to control dust caused by water gathering activities in the Owens Valley following construction of the Los Angeles Aqueduct.  The negotiations were led by LADWP Commission President Mel Levine and Commission Vice President William Funderburk together with Great Basin Board Members Ron Hames, Matt Kingsley and Linda Arcularius, and Air Pollution Control Officer Ted Schade.

The LADWP and Great Basin agreed to jointly ask the Sacramento Superior Court to approve a Stipulated Judgment agreed to by the parties (Judgment) that requires the LADWP to complete the implementation of dust control measures on 3.6 sq. mi. that have already been agreed to, bringing the total project to 48.6 square miles. Under the Judgment, Great Basin will have the authority to issue dust control orders on an additional 4.8 square miles within what is called the “Maximum Controlled Area,” bringing the total potential Owens Lake dust control project to 53.4 square miles. The Judgment limits the issuance of additional dust control orders by Great Basin, and allows the LADWP to use newly-developed and less water-intensive and waterless dust control measures, and will maintain existing wildlife habitat on the lakebed.

As a result, LADWP expects to save nearly 8,600 acre feet, or nearly 3 billion gallons, of water this year.  That is enough water to serve 43,000 people. And the path is set to significantly expand those savings in the future.

The Agreement stems from the recognition that the enormous Owens Lake dust control project that LADWP has implemented on more than 45 square miles of the lakebed over the past 15 years at a cost of over $1.3 billion has eliminated more than 90% of the excess blowing dust.

“We are extremely pleased to approve this historic agreement that is the result of the hard work of many people over many years,” said LADWP Commission President Mel Levine. “With California in the midst of an unprecedented drought, this agreement is especially important in that it will save the City an enormous amount water and money. The LADWP now knows that there is a limit to the dust control area for which it will be responsible, and has agreed to meet its obligations to meet air quality goals. LADWP also gets the assurance that new waterless control methods will be allowed, and existing control areas where water is now used could be converted to less water-intensive methods, while continuing to maintain wildlife habitat.”

“The first rule of ecology is that everything is connected to everything else” said Great Basin Board Chairman Ron Hames.  “The Owens Valley will forever be connected to the City of Los Angeles by the water from the Owens Valley.  We know Los Angeles relies on that water, but we also need clean air and it is Los Angeles’ responsibility to comply with the clean-air laws and protect public health. This agreement allows for both clean air for the families in the Owens Valley and clean water for Los Angeles.”

“This agreement provides a promising path forward based upon both agencies’ most basic needs, said Air Pollution Officer Ted Schade. “DWP needs more certainty regarding the maximum amount of lakebed it will ever be required to control.  Great Basin needs to have the ability to comply with its legal duty to require a regulated party to meet the federal and state air quality standards. We are very pleased to support this agreement that meets the needs of both the LADWP and Great Basin.”

While both the LADWP and Great Basin have worked closely over the past two decades to solve the dust control problem at Owens Lake, previous agreements and settlements did not limit the amount of lakebed LADWP is responsible for mitigating. Because LADWP’s efforts to control dust have been so successful, both parties are now confident that the current agreement will allow the parties to move forward cooperatively to complete the job.

Unique in this agreement is the establishment of the Owens Lake Scientific Advisory Panel (OLSAP), to be staffed by the National Academy of Sciences. The OLSAP will review scientific issues relating to controlling dust using waterless and low-water use methods, among other related matters. The panel’s first task will be to study the effectiveness of less water-intensive and waterless dust control methods at Owens Lake.  The agreement also importantly sets forth a process related to future discovery of Native American artifacts, which have been found on and around Owens Lake. Under the agreement, dust control measures may be delayed without penalty in the event additional significant Native American artifacts are discovered in the future.

“The dust has settled on Owens Lake,” said LADWP Commission President Levine. “Over the years LADWP and Great Basin have learned that working together we can best resolve issues. We are gratified that today we continue to move forward in a renewed spirit of cooperation.”



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12 Responses to LADWP/GBAPCD settle lawsuits over dust control and look forward to more use of waterless control methods without harming wildlife

  1. Chris November 15, 2014 at 12:31 am #

    And what if OSLAP determines that the “…effectiveness of less water-intensive and waterless dust control methods at Owens Lake” is ineffective (by what standards?), and does not improve dust mitigation?

    • Ted Schade November 15, 2014 at 5:18 pm #

      If the low-water tillage methods do not work or stop working, Great Basin will order the areas to be re-flooded. DWP can only till areas that have pre-existing shallow flood infrastructure. Once a failed tilled area is re wetted, it can be re-tilled.

      Effectiveness is measured by an enforcement protocol that uses five tests to ensure tilled areas will not become emissive. If a tilled area fails the tests, the area must be reflooding.

    • Michael Prather November 17, 2014 at 8:11 am #

      Read the settlement. It’s all there. even the new release states the Clean Air Act rules still apply regardless of the settlement.

  2. Michael Prather November 15, 2014 at 12:16 pm #

    A good dust/public health settlement. But also remember that Owens Lake is an Audubon Important Bird Area of hemispheric importance. On a single day over 100,000 migrating shorebirds and waterfowl may be foraging on the lake, putting on fat for the next leg of their marathon journeys – the largest wildlife location in Inyo County.

    And ALWAYS remember that Ted Schade, our local dust control officer, is a true Inyo County hero, who stood up to the enormous power of the City of Los Angeles and prevailed. My sincerest thanks to you Ted. You are our Inyo County ‘Man of the Year’ as far as I’m concerned.

  3. Roy November 15, 2014 at 1:36 pm #

    If the tilling method is to reduce dust, I’m curious why it wasn’t done years ago. The main benefit I see is that the DWP gets more water…

    • Desert Tortoise November 18, 2014 at 1:23 pm #

      It was done experimentally for many years on a small patch of lake bed. It took time for the method to prove itself in the field and be accepted by the GBAPCD and the courts as an acceptable method of dust control. In the mean time flooding was a proven method of dust control and so that was what LADWP used to comply with court orders.

      • Roy November 18, 2014 at 8:35 pm #

        Thank you for your reply… I was thinking it was a brand new idea by those involved..

  4. Michael Prather November 15, 2014 at 5:18 pm #

    Ted Schade, ‘Man of the Year’. We all owe him thanks for standing up to an enormously powerful and al to often arrogant city. Ted stood up for public health even when some behind him withheld loyalty and support. Sincerest thanks to you Ted. This valley choked on that dust for 80 years!

  5. Philip Anaya November 15, 2014 at 7:34 pm #

    Rock Solid Mr. Schade, You and the Great Basin Staff . And ICare, Mrs.Schade and the new Animal Shelter in Big Pine, also rocking out. Thank You to You all.

  6. average citizen November 16, 2014 at 9:37 am #

    Something never meaningfully addressed in dust mitigation planning is its visual impact. LADWP has been allowed to transform Owens Lake into a wretched industrial site. At least shallow flooding lends Owens the illusion of being a real lake once again and perhaps benefits wildlife, but the tillage method promises to only add to its desecration. Similar furrows and ridges were previously rejected as a mitigation method, so it would seem the local powers have caved to LA’s wasteful thirst in these times of drought.

  7. The Aggressive Progressive November 20, 2014 at 10:49 am #

    Before I come in with my comments from “left field” I too want to ad to the “Thank You’s” to Mr. Ted Schade and the Great Basin staff, Y’all are Rockstars in my book to hear and see you push the “bully” (LADWP) around….

    Lets never forget the historical significance of those who inhabited the Lake for thousands of years when it was a lake, the stories, the life forms, the whole connection to the great wonder this valley has, it has become a place of battle because of the unnatural diversion of the sierra snow melt… So the majestic beauty has been replaced with these so-called wins because the un-healthy dust that is being mitigated while continuing the desecration and destruction of the indigenous “KNOWN” sacred sights and history…. Just think if LA became water independent and didnt need to look at the water on the lake as wasted, but looked as water saved for the environment of the Owens valley… I mean this whole situation has costed the Owens Valley a whole lot more! But we are focused on the Monetary cost to the ones 200 miles away.. and in no way is it a win for the valley when we look at water saved from going to its natural destinations as good for the valley, lets get that straight!

    Funny to watch Human try its best to manipulate ecology to it’s own economic interest or convenience..

    • Mark November 20, 2014 at 12:51 pm #

      Humanity is aggressively progressive. It continues to decline at a rapid rate.


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