In its tradition of bullying small towns to grab their water, the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power’s latest victim is Mammoth Lakes and its water district. LA filed suit to claim that all of Mammoth Creek water belongs to the City of LA, not Mammoth Community Water District. Without the creek, the Town could not survive. Now, the water district manager says LA will launch a second legal attack – this time, on the Town’s Urban Water Management Plan.
As drought looms statewide, LADWP has hired a high-powered environmental law firm to do battle in lawsuits related to the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA). Last month, LA filed a legal challenge to Mammoth Community Water District’s Environmental Impact Report on Mammoth Creek fishery flows. LA’s argument? They own all of Mammoth Creek water, so Mammoth has no right to determine fishery flows.
Mammoth has learned that LADWP will pay $450,000 to Meyers-Nave, a mega law firm that deals with CEQA suits. This firm will fight Mammoth. Greg Norby, manager of the water district, said that LA has indicated to Mammoth Community Water District that the City will file a second lawsuit this week. The suit will challenge the District’s 2010 Urban Water Management Plan, a state-mandated document. Manager Norby said the plan is a supply and demand analysis through build-out of Mammoth which relies on Mammoth Creek water rights. LADWP claims the City owns those rights so the plan is not legal.
Norby disagrees and said Mammoth began using Mammoth Creek water in 1947 and continued to establish rights through the State over the years. LA never challenged those rights until now. On top of the threat of a second suit, LADWP lawyers have hit the Water District with two major public records requests which have tied up many staff and legal team resources. Norby said LA apparently wants to make Mammoth ineligible for state grants by invaliding the Water Management Plan. This could result in a $100,000 loss.
When asked to comment on LADWP’s attack on the main source of water for Mammoth Lakes and its famous ski area, attorney Amrit Kulkarni declined to comment. LA and MCWD will meet in a mandatory settlement conference February 21st at the offices of Mammoth’s attorney in Sacramento.