Mitigation undone

inyo_courthouse.jpg25 years ago, the Department of Water and Power agreed on an Enhancement/ Mitigation project in southern Inyo that ultimately led to adding 30 acre feet of water for a high school farm project. Today, the Van Norman Enhancement/ Mitigation project and the high school farm remain undone.

Brenda Lacey, Agriculture Instructor at Lone Pine High, told the Inyo Supervisors yesterday that sixteen years ago, officials firmed up plans for water for the school farm as part of mitigation for the second aqueduct. Delays continued, and in 2012 the school managed to get a grant for water distribution from a DWP well. Now, the grant is at risk if LA keeps dragging its feet. This item is on the agenda for the Inyo-LA Standing Committee meeting Friday in Independence. (Agenda, below)

Inyo Water Director Bob Harrington said Bishop DWP management didn’t want to add this item to the agenda. Harrington pointed to Standing Committee rules and held firm that the item can go on the agenda. He said LADWP staff were not agreeable to take action involving what’s called the Van Norman mitigation project, which includes the farm water.

Now, the students have seeds ready to plant in April and the grant was extended through April. It’s up to DWP to cooperate. Inyo is ready to handle environmental work on the projects. Supervisor Chairman Rick Pucci said, “This is a commitment LA made. They just need to make it happen. It’s amazing to me,” said Pucci. “We have an agreement. It’s on the record. Get it done so the students can grow. It kind of amazes me.”

Someone noted that the students who started out at the beginning of the project process are “now in the 40s, and it’s still not done.” This is not the only mitigation measure that lingers in LA’s playbook. On the Inyo Water Department website is a list of 55 mitigation measures – supposed to make up for DWP’s extensive groundwater pumping between 1970 and 1990. Many are incomplete.

The Supervisors agreed to direct the two board members on the Standing Committee, Linda Arcularius and Rick Pucci, to call for a critical timeline to get the Van Norman project and farm water going and decide who can get the environmental work done ASAP.

Other items on the Standing Committee agenda include Owens Lake area groundwater development, revisions on the Green Book, mitigation projects water use, Blackrock 94 dispute, and the County’s proclamation of a Local Drought Emergency. The meeting starts at 1pm, Friday in the Supervisors’ Boardroom.




1:00 p.m. February 7, 2014

Board of Supervisors Room County Administrative Center 224 North Edwards Independence, California

The public will be offered the opportunity to comment on each agenda item prior to any action on the item by the Standing Committee or, in the absence of action, prior to the Committee moving to the next item on the agenda. The public will also be offered the opportunity to address the Committee on any matter within the Committee’s jurisdiction prior to adjournment of the meeting.

1. Action Item: Approval of documentation of actions from the August 29, 2013 meeting. 2. Runoff and operations update. 3. Report on Owens Lake-area groundwater development. 4. Report on status of Green Book revisions.

5. Possible Action: Update on the Van Norman E/M project and possible action on modifications to the project.

6. Report on the status of Technical Group evaluation of E/M project water use and water supply. 7. Update on vegetation parcel Blackrock 94. 8. Discussion of Inyo County’s proclamation of a Local Drought Emergency 9. Public Comment.

10. Confirm schedule for future Standing Committee meetings. 11. Adjourn.


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35 Responses to Mitigation undone

  1. Ben Holgate February 5, 2014 at 3:21 pm #

    “On the Inyo Water Department website is a list of 55 mitigation measures – supposed to make up for DWP’s extensive groundwater pumping between 1970 and 1990. Many are incomplete”

    Here is the critical point. While LADWP leadership seeks to enrich the Department through industrial scale solar development in the OV, continues to pump the beegeezus out of the well fields between Big Pine and Independence in the 3rd year of a drought we tarry in the shadow of this ongoing failure.

    What is the accumulated total of the water the City has witheld from these mitigation projects today? What benefit would that water have to ecosystems and agricultural endeavors, air quality and quality of life indicators in Inyo County this year? I think at minimum enough for LADWP to not ask any further sacrifice from the Owens Valley. Ever.

    • Desert Tortoise February 6, 2014 at 11:35 am #

      DWP is doing what the City Council of LA expects them to do, provide the lowest cost water and power to the residents of LA to meet their needs. The needs and desires of Inyo and Mono counties are not represented in the LA City Council. The members of the LA City Council respond to their constituents and they all know that further reducing water supples to their constitutents during a drought in the face of a water rationing ordinance won’t get them re-elected. People in LA want more, not less water. What Inyo or Mono Counties want are of no concern in LA. That is the harsh, unpopular reality.

      The only remedy are the courts. You can complain bitterly and nothing will change unless a judge orders DWP to act and holds the threat of very large fines and maybe even contempt charges against senior DWP managers over their heads.

      • JeremiahJoseph February 6, 2014 at 1:31 pm #

        Yes the LA city council responds to their constituents, So why should we not believe our Inyo county leaders wouldn’t respond to us? and if those that don’t raise awareness with concerns of injustice, then we would all be having a cup of tea with you convincing ourselves its a losing battle…
        Voices of advocacy should be heard, that’s something that made and makes this country what it is…

        • Desert Tortoise February 7, 2014 at 8:28 am #

          One of the primary rules of combat is to know as much as you can about your enemy. Nobody in LADWP or in the LA City Council are elected or paid to listen to anything Inyo or Mono County say. They can come to the meetings and listen politely, but ultimately they all answer to the people of LA. Attending their meetings and expressing your outrage is wasted breath. Because LA is a charter city under Article 11 of the California Constitution, Inyo and Mono County’s respective Boards of Supervisors have no legal means to affect LADWPs behavior directly. LA law supercedes all other laws where a conflict exists, unless it can be demonstrated in a court that there is an overarching statewide impact in DWP/Los Angeles activities. Both counties can pass all the laws they want and LA is under no obligation to obey them, because they are a charter city.

          The solution is to litigate. Because LA is a charter city only a court or the State Legislature can order LA to do anything, and because the Legislature is populated by representatives of major urban areas, you won’t find relief with the Legislature. Mono and Inyo Counties will have to litigate and have a judge order LADWP to do or not do things. That is truely the only recourse. It ought to be apparent by now that without vigorous court enforcement that inculed fines and perhaps even threats of contempt citations and jail time that LADWP will not adhere to agreements it makes. The Boards of Supervisors need to grow a spine and litigate LADWP into a corner. All the conferences and working groups in the world won’t change their behavior.

        • Desert Tortoise February 7, 2014 at 10:52 am #

          Ok, but realize that the solution lies in the courts not the county hall of administration, probably the Federal Courts at that because state courts are afraid to go againts big cities. The state courts are purposely being starved of money to operate by legislators, most of whom come from big cities, who resent the courts for previous rulings that went against them or their cities. Read some of the comments retired Chief Justice Ronald George has made on this exact topic. The state courts are deathly afraid to rule against big cities because their legislators are openly taking revenge on their budget. The region’s salvation will be in the Federal courts citing Federal laws.

  2. andy February 6, 2014 at 8:38 am #

    I do see how anyone would be amazed with the actions of DWP Cartel!

    • Desert Tortoise February 6, 2014 at 11:29 am #

      “Cartel”? No, they are one of many departments of a charter city. Big difference.

      • Tinner February 6, 2014 at 2:36 pm #

        I’m with you Andy, cartel is a better description.

        • Desert Tortoise February 7, 2014 at 8:36 am #

          Calling DWP a cartel expresses anger but misses completely the nature of what you are up against. A cartel is a combination of businesses that fix prices. LADWP is nothing like that. Number one, they are not a business. There are no investors or shareholders. They are a department of a city government that provides utility services to it’s residents. They cannot be broken up like a cartel because they are a department of the government of a charter city. No court has any authority to strip DWP from LA. Anger is nice but understand the nature of your enemy.

          What a court can do is direct LADWP to do or not do very specific things at very specific places, and that will be Inyo and Mono counties only relief.

          • Benett Kessler February 7, 2014 at 9:49 am #

            I think Tinner or Andy meant cartel in the poetic, metaphor sense. Let others express poetically if they want. You are taking it too literally.
            Benett Kessler

          • JeremiahJoseph February 7, 2014 at 1:36 pm #

            So then can you justify how a city that sits 250 miles away, can have the power to relocate indigenous community’s, and still to this day hold that oppression over the native communities by limiting the economic opportunity that comes with water rights, that’s what we are loosing when you see the opportunity’s and growth that LA experiences with the Owens Valley Water, Now lets see you Justify that being a common practice of a public utilities department!

  3. Steve February 6, 2014 at 9:05 am #

    WOW, I just read the entire list of 55 mitigation projects.

    First thing that hits hard is the list is in bad need of a update. Looks to be 10 years old.

    So we really don’t know whats going on or how bad it maybe.

    It really shows how DWP continually drags their feet and is a unwilling partner. As DWP continually shows how bad they are at keeping their end of any agreement.

    So I ask do we continue to make more agreements? Like adding ground water pumping under Owen’s Lake. I am sure DWP will tell us how they will mitigate any damage done and would be happy to sign an agreement. #56 on the list.

    • Benett Kessler February 6, 2014 at 10:06 am #

      There is a more updated version of the mitigation list on page 99 of the Inyo County Water Department Annual Report for 2012-2013. It’s on the Water Department website. That’s the list I used for our most recent story posted this morning. It still shows a great deal undone or done poorly.
      Benett Kessler

  4. Desert Tortoise February 6, 2014 at 11:22 am #

    It should be apparent to all that the DWP will do nothing unless ordered to do so by a court of law. Unless the county is prepared to litigate, the city of Los Angeles will feel no need to act.

    • Philip Anaya February 6, 2014 at 6:27 pm #

      Stipulations and sanctions have proven their worth in the shameless behavior of the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power’s Management and Operations in their century of deceit and misguided efforts in the Owens Valley to satiate the thirst of Angelenos and their Gardens never to be Eden and the never imagined growth and development of the Urban Empire of Los Angeles.
      Hyperbole aside, the unsustainable practices of the DWP always seem to come home to roost. The importance of the presentation (thank you Sierra Wave ,Inyo Register, OVC, Historic events, Individuals and Groups et all upon whose shoulders we today stand tall) and the acknowledged truth of the history and practices of the DWP are vital to evolution of the litigation that has occured and will in the future occur over and over until the light of that truth evolves into the recogniton that Management and Operations of the DWP need to become sustainable and acceptable not only to our relativly small population in the Owens Valley, but more important to the sustainability and acceptability to Mother Nature on this Earth and in this Valley . Meanwhile patience runs thin, persistance and truth however run forever and DWP has yet to learn that it is not a brother or sister to the wind,snow and solar radiation . They still need to learn about symbiotic relationships with the earth, with the Owens Valley and they need to change their collective unevolved rotten personality. DWP, you are the problem until you are part of the solution.

    • Fibonacci February 6, 2014 at 8:37 pm #

      Any citizen can sue under CEQA . Mitigation is a part of CEQA.
      The shocking thing is that most of the mitigation measures are for the 1970-1990 era of pumping, to help offset the destruction of wetlands, springs, grasslands and trees throughout the wellfield areas which are mostly Big PIne and south. The EIR and Water Agreement were finished in 1991, and approved by the Court in 1997. That’s 23 years folks. Even if the City waited until final Court approval, that’s 17 years. Southern Owens Valley has borne the brunt of the City’s activities. Now, West Bishop is suffering under the heavy-handed, secretive and singleminded behavior of DWP’s leaders.
      Anyone for a class action?

      • Russ Monroe February 7, 2014 at 9:43 am #

        Factual post Fabionacci, however…
        Although “Any” citizen may sue… and may even get together and file a class action, then what? DW&P has a tower of lawyers working on a limitless budget who will hang up any legal action for decades and if the suits should actually make it to court, any ruling would be moot as DW&P has proven repeatedly that it can and will, ignore any and all law.
        No legal action has changed the DW&P’s course of action.
        Turn off the tap. Convince the mayor that it will not come back on “until”, and it will go back off “if”. At that point we can negotiate. Until we get to that point, we are just wasting time, money and effort.
        DW&P is convinced that they are above the law! The only effective thing we can do is convince them that that point is moot.

        • Desert Tortoise February 7, 2014 at 10:57 am #

          Read Article 11 of the State Constitution. Where conflicts exist, the laws of charter cities supercede all other state or local laws. It’s know as “home rule”. As a charter city, LA is not obliged to obey any laws other than those it’s own City Council passes, or Federal Laws when they conflict. It isn’t lawlessness, it is precisely how the the State Constitution was written.

      • Mongo The Idiot February 7, 2014 at 1:45 pm #

        I love your work and miss our talks about the housing crisis five years before it happened. Perhaps we will reconvene at this juncture in history where water and predictable natural supply and demand fluctuations occur as evidenced by your number sequence and retracement. Ironical, the pine-cones and flowers that you studied to prove your theory exist in the Eastern Sierra and hold the answers to mankind’s question; what will happen next.

  5. Mongo February 6, 2014 at 7:49 pm #

    I hope I am nowhere near LA or LADWP on the day when brown water comes out of faucets.
    Imagine what happened in Inyo, happening in LA.
    No water for crops (lawns).
    No water for industry.
    No water at the homestead.
    Wake up LADWP and Metro Water District, it is time for emergency lawn elimination, local capture, and the restoration of the Owens Lake, aquifer, and reserve.

    • Desert Tortoise February 7, 2014 at 8:41 am #

      No, the urban water user has been squeezed hard enough. It is long past time for mandatory drip irrigation for all crops. 80% of the state’s developed fresh water is used by agriculture. A 10% reduction in agriculture water use adds 33.3% more water for urban users. We irrigate crops with ditch irrigation, mostly unlined ditches at that, and sprinkilers. Both are very wasteful of water. Drip irrigation of all crops should become mandatory. Growing alfalfa in the desert should not even be permitted. Farmers, not urban water users are the ones draining desert aquifers dry, and they are the ones sucking all the water out of the western San Joaquin Valley, to the point that land subsidence there is starting to cause problems for the big canal of the California Aqueduct.

      • Philip Anaya February 7, 2014 at 11:11 am #

        Have to disagree with this post from DT. The water applied to the Ranchers Lands in the Owens Valley benefits soilwater in the rooting zone and the water table levels in the Aquifer. The Ranchers are the folks that have been squeezed hard enough. The folks in West Bishop with dry wells have been squeezed and left out hanging on their own They are all to aware of the value and importance of every drop of their water unlike too many water users in Los Angeles who only understand that water is supposed to come out the tap when it’s turned on. The head of these households in these urban places have the consciousness of the expense of the water, the power that comes from paying the bill each month and little else, unless there are some 5th graders in the household who are learning about the earth and teaching the parents well.
        It is the needs of the Urban Water user and the operations of the LADWP that has effected the water tables in the Owens Valley. It is drought, the needs of water for homes and business in the urban centers, the resulting lack of available water for agriculture and the over pumping of the Aquifers that has resulted in the land subsidence in the San Joaquin Valley. These are huge problems to deal with and management and conservation of the resource are vital. That begins with the idea to receive the “right amount of water” that the Earth provides rather than “the water right” that has allowed mindless extraction of the resource

    • MajorTom February 7, 2014 at 12:05 pm #

      Instead of micro-managing how people use water, how about we instead put a price on water that reflects its actual value. When someone waters their lawn in LA, it should be as if dimes were flowing out of the hose and piling up on the lawn. The high price should be the same for everyone, so farmers and city folk would have an economic incentive to conserve. Then you won’t have to tell anyone what they can do with water, a million people will come up with their own ways to save. Keep prices low for enough per household for people to survive, and charge an exorbitant amount for water in excess of that. The market is the best tool for allocating scarce resources. It just needs to be tweaked to reflect the true cost of the resources.

      • Desert Tortoise February 7, 2014 at 1:42 pm #

        Sigh. The Owens Valley is not the only place LA obtains it’s water. Do you understand that? In fact, LA obtains most of its water from other sources. Water is water, if LA can get more water from the Colorado and Sacramento Rivers by the MWD and California aqueducts respectively, that is less water LA needs from the Owens Valley.

        The amount of water LA uses in a year is absolutely dwarfed by what agriculture, corporate agriculture in the San Joaquin and Imperial Valleys use. They waste as much water as LA uses, yet the drumbeat is always for LA and other cities to conserve. They already have the lowest water use per person per day of any cities in the nation, but there seems to be constant pressure to use less and less.

        Agriculture uses 80% of the states developed fresh water, and they use it in blatantly wasteful ways. Before leaning on urban water users more I want to see agriculture, not ranching, but farming, required to employ water conservation techniques and reduce THEIR water use 10% before another 20% reduction is demanded of cities.

      • Desert Tortoise February 7, 2014 at 1:46 pm #

        MajorTom, farmers get heavily subsidized water. They pay a small fraction of the cost per acre foot that cities pay for aqueduct water. Good luck getting that changed. The agriculture lobby is strong. Why else do we grow crops like rice and alfalfa in a desert? Farmers will argue that if they had to pay as much for water as cities do they would go out of business, and they probably would. Their water costs would quadruple to quintuple from what they are now. Ten percent of the states economy would cease to exist. I don’t think we want to go there, but requiring drip irrigation is entirely reasonable in my opinion, and maybe even outlawing the farming of alfalfa in the desert.

        • Pedro February 7, 2014 at 9:31 pm #

          Hemp would be an appropriate lower water usage crop for alfalfa and cotton. Seeds for animal feed and fiber for textiles and paper.

          • Wayne Deja February 8, 2014 at 12:44 pm #

            Gimme a break !!……Had to laugh the other day when I read that someone in Colorado is joining in on the $$$$ flow and trying to convence,and sell a “marijuana hand and body lotion”…..telling people it’a an anti-aging remedy,as well as a cure for skin cancer……I’ll go back to those that have teen-agers…only this time,those with teen-age sons going on their first date….here he is all dressed up and nerveous…..waiting….and then ,the big moment….a knock on the door….and it’s his date…Mom and Dad with the camera,ready to take photos of the big moment…..she walks in the door….and,wha-la,……she’s stoned,and smelling like rag-weed……swell….

          • Pedro February 8, 2014 at 2:55 pm #

            Wayne, give you a break that hemp is an agricultural crop that is not used as a drug? You better brush up on your US and world history for the last few thousand years. Cannabis seed in bird feed has never been illegal in this country.
            Maybe you’d better spend more time with your kids so they choose better friends, or talk to the girl and her parents to see if she could use some help and guidance.

          • Wayne Deja February 8, 2014 at 9:09 pm #

            Pedro…The Opium poppy is also an agricultural plant,which is used in the making of heroin…..and the coca plant….that’s used to make cocaine….other than saying that,I’m still trying to figure out your stating cannabis seed is being used in bird feed…..and ?……….

          • Pedro February 9, 2014 at 5:19 pm #

            Wayne, Opium Poppy also provides most of the poppy seeds that we eat and morphine, etc that is used legitimately in medicine. We still use coca in soft drinks. Cannabis is a drought tolerant plant and hemp varieties have little to no drug use, but is used to produce feed, cloth, paper etc. It could be used to lessen use of alfalfa, cotton and timber, while saving water, petroleum and other resources. DT is right about agriculture being the biggest waster of water in this state by far.

            Maybe we should outlaw gasoline since some people abuse it to get high?
            I’ll get back to my Coca Cola and poppyseed cake while you get back to your hysteria.

  6. Ken Warner February 6, 2014 at 8:17 pm #

    The simple truth is that nothing mankind does is sustainable. The population continues to grow. Resources continue to diminish. It doesn’t take an advanced degree to see that eventually there will be more people than resources. The Owens Valley vs. LADWP is nothing compared to what will happen.

    And people are getting dumber all the time.

    • Mongo The Idiot February 7, 2014 at 9:22 pm #

      LADWP needs electrolytes.

      • Trouble February 8, 2014 at 1:18 pm #

        LADWP needs to stop screwing us!

    • sugar magnolia February 8, 2014 at 4:52 pm #

      I like people, individually…but mankind as a whole, not so much…I always say, if there was a button I could push that would instantaneously vaporize mankind (painlessly I hope), I would press it! Nothing personal. I just believe that mankind will take earth down with us as we go, eventually.

      • MajorTom February 10, 2014 at 10:13 am #

        Please don’t push that button. With enough time, the earth has recovered from far greater catastrophes than mankind. It is most likely that we will eliminate our niche in the ecosystem and eliminate ourselves. It is already starting. Let’s not hurry things along please.


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