Would Los Angeles ever consider an equal relationship with the Eastern Sierra? One based on mutual benefit? At Cal Poly Pomona, there are those who think it is possible.
For the past year, Master of Landscape Architecture students from Cal Poly Pomona held workshops in the Eastern Sierra and examined the Los Angeles Aqueduct and its impacts here. Now, an exhibit in LA City Hall reveals those impacts and proposals to remake the relationship of LA and Inyo-Mono.
It’s called Aqueduct Futures which is on exhibit through December 6th. Assistant Professor of Landscape Architecture Barry Lehrman hopes the project will lay the foundation for peace between LA and the Owens Valley. Sounds like a stretch of the imagination to most here, but Lehrman says he and the students will start to “develop the framework to empower the Owens Valley and Mono Basin to have control over their landscape.”
Lehrman said the cost for LA to treat Owens Valley like a water colony is substantial impacts which “may not be in LA’s best interest.” He called LA land ownership here a “huge conflict of interest.” Lehrman pointed to the 500 square miles LA owns and said, “DWP is not good at property management.” He said their primary purpose is to provide water to LA. Said Lehrman, “DWP is awful at management of resources. They are best at generating water and power.”
Though it may sound like wishful thinking, Lehrman says that economic development here is not at odds with water for LA. He said, “They think they will lose water with every flush of a toilet in the Owens valley, but that water eventually makes its way to LA.” Lehrman said LA needs to think about the fact that water is used several times.
As for the cost to mitigate the legendary dust at the Owens Dry Lake, Lehrman said, “That’s what it costs to do the right thing.” He also said that to treat the Owens Valley as an equal would be a benefit to Los Angeles.
Back to land ownership. Lehrman said if not to use land to manipulate the people in the Owens Valley, why should DWP own it? He called water use for modest growth in the
Owens Valley “insignificant” compared to water use in LA for more than 3 million people. Said Lehrman, “There is no reason the Owens Valley can’t be allowed to have some growth with no substantial impact on LA.”
Lehrman and students have come up with ideas for recreation management of Owens Valley land, possibly a National Recreation Area designation along with local development. He said along with plans to revitalize the LA River, the Owens River is “worthy of equal treatment.” He said the 21st Century is about parklands and open space.
Lehrman said the time is right and discussions have begun in LA to focus on the ethical and moral treatment of the Eastern Sierra by Los Angeles. LA City Councilman Tom LeBonge sponsored the Aqueducts Future exhibit, and Lehrman hopes to have discussions with other leaders, including Mayor Garcetti. Lehrman said it’s time for LADWP to end its “culture of denial” when it comes to the big city’s water source.