While the Department of Water and Power and Air Pollution Control District reached settlement on seven legal issues, local citizens prepared to rally against dust mitigation work on the Owens Dry Lake to save what they say are thousands of Indian tribal artifacts at the lake bed.
In the first case, APCD Director Ted Schade said his agency had sued DWP for failure to pay attorney’s fees. The case was set to go to trial Monday in Kern County, but both sides reached agreement. In a joint statement, APCD and DWP said, “In the spirit of improved cooperation between the City and Great Basin, the parties agreed to settle the Kern lawsuit and resolve various appeals before the California Air Resources Board.”
DWP stood to potentially pay up to $8 million in penalties on this case. Instead, both sides agreed LA would give APCD $1.2 million for air pollution mitigation projects and $150,000 for solar power for six public service districts in southern Inyo. Plus both sides are continuing talks on “new and efficient ways to control air pollution from the dried Owens Lake bed.”
Meanwhile, the disgruntled were gathering for a demonstration at the dry lake today because construction in an area of reported cultural artifacts was forging ahead. Seems DWP has blamed the Air Pollution Control District, which said the ball is in DWP’s court.
APCD Director Schade said there is a legal procedure to follow on cultural artifacts. He said the his Board passed a motion that if DWP’s archaeologist finds significant resources, he has to call in a second archaeologist. Schade said, “If both say it’s important, we move the area out of the clean-up part of the lake.” As for the current situation, Schade said, “DWP needs to follow the procedure.” Schade said if two archaeologists decide the resources are significant, he will issue an order halting work on the area. Schade said DWP had proposed this procedure last summer.
Kathy Bancroft, Tribal Historic Preservation Officer for the Lone Pine Tribe, had reportedly stopped work on the site earlier this month. Tribal members say this site in question includes thousands of artifacts, in part, from a massacre of native people which “took place at the hands of the US military out of Ft. Independence.”
Tribal representatives say the APCD and DWP have failed to respond to efforts to protect cultural resources. DWP was scheduled to begin work in that area Thursday.
The rally at the site was scheduled for 1pm Wednesday off a road south of Boulder Creek off of Highway 395 to the East.