Letting DWP off the hook

Daniel Pritchett
401 East Yaney St.
Bishop, CA 93514
January 30, 2011

Inyo Register
450 East Line St.
Bishop, CA 93514

Dear Editor

In the never-ending tragedy of Inyo-LA relations, there are moments of black humor. Recently, there was Gene Coufal’s Inyo Register defense of DWP management (1/11/11). In this letter Mr. Coufal neglected to mention that DWP continues to pump about 30% more water than the USGS estimated as a sustainable amount, and fails to provide ranchers water in amounts established under the Inyo-LA Long Term Water Agreement (LTWA). Instead, he invoked (among other things) the Owens Lake dust mitigation project. Of course, this is silly. Legally, the LTWA and Owens Lake dust mitigation are unrelated. The fact that DWP may be complying with the Clean Air Act at Owens Lake in no way justifies DWP’s LTWA violations.

Unfortunately, no one told Inyo County Supervisors, who swallowed Mr. Coufal’s Owens Lake-LTWA linkage hook, line, and sinker. I refer to their comments (IR1/18/11) regarding the proposed Owens Lake management plan. Instead of urging DWP to implement the most effective plan possible, they “emphatically” urged DWP to minimize the use of fresh water on the lake because increased use of water on the lake increases pressure to pump water elsewhere in Owens Valley. In a single comment they validated years of attempts by the DWP public relations department to link the LTWA to Owens Lake. Inyo Supervisors, in effect, argued to sacrifice the lake to minimize damage from DWP’s already-exploitative management under the LTWA. In making this false choice they sold their constituents and Owens Valley short.

DWP is obligated to comply with the the Clean Air Act and the LTWA – not one at the expense of the other. Rather than accepting DWP’s false choice, Inyo Supervisors should attempt to enforce the LTWA. That is the way to protect the upper portions of the valley without undermining efforts to mitigate dust and create wildlife habitat at Owens Lake. Supervisors in the 1970’s and 1980’s had the determination and courage to lead 19 years of precedent-setting litigation which created the LTWA. This achievement is being systematically destroyed, because current and recent Supervisors confuse the phrase “enforce the LTWA,” with “acquiesce to DWP.” Perhaps our newly-reconstituted Inyo County Water Commission can critically examine LTWA implementation and give our Supervisors a much-needed vocabulary lesson.

Daniel Pritchett

Bishop, CA

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