The Los Angeles Department of Water and Power’s Director of Water Operations, Martin Adams, returned to the Inyo Supervisors Tuesday with a project plan concept for the Owens Dry Lake. Bottom line – DWP wants to cut water use for dust control at the lake by half, pump water from under the lake, limit future dust control, and create and protect habitat. Asked pointedly if LADWP will leave water saved on the dry lake in the Owens Valley, Adams said, “I am not in a position to make a commitment. That’s a Board decision.”
Adams and others have implied that a reduction in water on the dry lake would mean more water for ranchers and others in the Owens Valley. Clearly, that is not certain. DWP’s new Owens Lake Plan would cost LA between $600 million and $1 billion. Most doubt LA would leave much saved water in the Owens Valley at that price.
Adams spent an hour explaining the newly proposed plan to the Supervisors. Before LA issued its own plan, DWP was working with numerous local agencies in the Owens Lake Master Plan group. In response to concerns that DWP would by-pass the group, Adams said he would meet with that committee soon. He said DWP’s plan came out of part of the Master Plan work.
The DWP concept would use gravel, tillage and non-uniform ridges to control dust on the lake bed in place of water. At one point, Air Pollution Control District Director Ted
Schade stood up to say that his agency never required DWP to use water on the dry lake. He said that was their decision. Schade said APCD encourages LA to prove out other dust control methods. He said APCD originally would have preferred the City use gravel instead of water. Adams had earlier said gravel is more expensive.
In his explanation of the new plan, Adams said that DWP wants to hold dust control to 45 square miles. He said, “We do believe under law that we’ve satisfied our obligations.” LA is now suing the State Air Board and APCD to end additional, future dust control measures. Adams added that DWP believes dust in the lake area comes from sources other than DWP’s water activities.
Adams also described a process of at least five phases in DWP’s plan so that the transitions taking place would not create problems nor new penalties from APCD. Adams said DWP would work with the Master Plan Group, the County and state and federal agencies on the DWP plan which would also require an environmental review. He said, “We will work with state and local officials to resolve the legal and regulatory issues in order to warrant a major investment on our part.”
Adams said the DWP Commissioners planned to meet on this new concept Tuesday but would not approve it at that time. With as much as 47,000 acre feet of water saved from Owens Lake mitigation, what would DWP do with that water? Adams claims LA will work with the ranching community for more water. Ranchers have suffered losses by DWP over the past decade or so. They face more losses in this dry year. Again, Adams told Sierra Wave Media after his presentation that he could not commit that water saved on the Dry Lake would stay in the Owens Valley.
Supervisors encouraged Adams to meet with the Owens Lake Master Plan Committee. Supervisor Rick Pucci said it was important to leave water in the Owens Valley. He said, “It’s extremely important to develop this point in advance.” We will have more on supervisors’ comments on later broadcasts.