Op-ed: More reasons to support LAxit

By Daniel Pritchett

Last July I wrote an op-ed arguing for LAxit: inspired by Brexit (the British referendum on membership in the European Union), LAxit would be a referendum on Los Angeles exiting the valley while phasing out its dependence on Eastern Sierra water, addressing Native American land and water claims, and protecting existing open space.

I pointed out that the chief obstacle to LAxit was residents holding the view that “If it weren’t for DWP this place would look like [name your favorite ugly sprawled suburban area]”. These residents seem to be frightened at the prospect of a DWP departure. They overlook DWP’s endless environmental abuse of the valley because they credit DWP with the high quality of life here.

Adherents of this “DWP is the savior of the valley” myth may wish to re-consider their
positions. Recent articles in the media have described certain changes to DWP ranch and business leases.

According to the Inyo Register, changes could lead to reduced county services
because they will lead to lower property values and lower tax revenues. According to Bishop City Manager Jim Tatum, impacts could be “devastating”.

Meanwhile, remarkably punitive terms DWP is imposing in the new lease for the Sunland landfill will lead to increased rates for all of us, and increased work and liability for the county… whose resources will be diminished due to declining property tax revenue as a result of DWP ranch and business lease modifications.

And let’s not forget the homeowners in southwest Bishop subjected to hydrologic havoc when DWP changed its management of Bishop Creek in 2013. DWP has never accepted responsibility for the consequences of its actions and Owens Valley residents lost tens (if not hundreds) of thousands of dollars.

The lease issues and Bishop Creek fiasco illustrate that our economic prosperity and quality of life cannot be taken for granted. They are threatened by DWP’s colonial rule just as our environment is. Those fearing a DWP departure should be more fearful of DWP not departing.

County Supervisors do the best they can in defending against DWP’s un-ending attacks, but the time is long overdue for the county to also play offense. Visitors often ask why our county government is so acquiescent to DWP. I tell them it is a reflection of public opinion.

We act as a defeated people.

But, we don’t have to. There are many alternatives to DWP’s colonial rule which would allow us to not just maintain but enhance our quality of life as well as our environment. LAxit would be an important step in rousing us from our collective torpor, and generating political pressure on LA to end its colonial rule and act on its stated goal of reducing its dependence on imported water.

Another step would be for the county to start sending people to speak in public at every meeting of the LA Board of Water and Power Commissioners. In 2011 DWP was reported to be the 13th most hated company in America. With all the anger directed at DWP from its customers in LA, it is easy for Water and Power Commissioners to ignore/forget Owens Valley issues.

“The squeaky wheel gets the grease” — the county does not squeak nearly enough in
public in Los Angeles, where it matters. A small part of the $1,000,000 LA pays the county to finance the Inyo County Water Department would be sufficient to fund this project.

An investment in establishing a public presence in Los Angeles could have significant political returns.

LA has alternative water supplies. Its own data show through investment in water recycling, conservation, and storm water capture it could phase out its addiction to Eastern Sierra water and end its colonial rule.

What is lacking is not water, but political will to make the necessary infrastructure investments.

The first step in generating political will in LA is for Owens Valley residents to state clearly what we want. That is the importance of LAxit.

 

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4 Responses to Op-ed: More reasons to support LAxit

  1. Roy January 24, 2017 at 7:49 am #

    Interesting concept – some questions please.

    LADWP is the largest land owner in the Valley. Assuming they leave what happens to all of their land? Would it be sold off to the people to be used as they wish – hopefully to create wealth and pay taxes – hence likely closed to public use. Or would it be held in trust for the public to use and, if so, who decides how it gets used and by whom? If not used to create wealth and pay taxes, how is the cost to own and maintain these lands paid for?

    Thank you and looking forward to your answers.

     
  2. Charles O. Jones January 24, 2017 at 4:36 pm #

    @Mr Pritchett,
    In your opening paragraph you conclude with: “and protecting existing open space”. Please tell us how you think this would be accomplished. While LADWP may be far from angels, (no pun intended), I don’t see any reality in the notion that they would essentially walk away from their billions in land holdings and ensure that existing open space is protected.

    If you’ve got a viable, realistic and economically achievable plan with your LAxit scheme that will ensure we can “protect existing open space” – by all means, lets hear it.

     
    • Charles O. Jones January 30, 2017 at 8:44 am #

      Dan????
      Either you’ve got a viable plan and you’re hiding it, or this is just a giant, unrealistic, pipe dream. which is it?

       
  3. Philip Anaya January 25, 2017 at 7:36 pm #

    If I could coax the genie out of the lamp and got three wishes I would ask for two important improbable things. LAxit could fit that bill.
    Although I know a bunch of folks who voted for you know, I have yet to meet someone not on the payroll who thinks LADWP is a “savior of the Owens Valley” and now the Owens River Trail, leases, landfill issues, mitigation projects, et all certainly have the City being the devil in disguise. Maybe the real reason DWP would never leave is that there is water here and it costs them half of what they pay the MWD for an acre foot. So while waiting for the wish to come true there is plenty of time to work at hauling DWP into the future of eventual sustainability and partnership with the people and the environment of the Eastern Sierra. There is more of a chance to scheme, pester, cajole, and coopt them into becoming decent neighbors and human beings than a LAxit strategy. And of course a third wish should always be for 3 more wishes.

     

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