Letter to the editor: Bending to DWP ultimatum

dustdrylakeThe ongoing effort to develop a Master Plan for Owens Lake is one of the most important, but least-reported, news stories in Inyo County. Unfortunately, negotiations are not going well. Several local environmental groups seem to have decided to accept whatever terms DWP dictates in order to get an agreement to protect bird habitat at the lake. As a result, the draft Master Plan released last year would protect birds and put more water down the aqueduct, but wouldn’t protect ranchers and the environment in the rest of the valley. Previous Inyo County leaders weren’t effective advocates for the entire valley against this unlikely DWP-environmental group alliance.

The Owens Lake Planning Committee met recently (Jan. 28) and I attended as an observer. At this meeting DWP distributed an ultimatum: a list of seven “objectives and components” that DWP “must have” in the Master Plan. The list includes at least a 47,500 acre feet/year increase in water exports to Los Angeles, new groundwater pumping, and a “Lawfully established limit of 45 square miles of dust controls that Los Angeles is responsible to construct and maintain.” This is a back door way of forcing Planning Committee members to accept DWP’s legal position in its outrageous lawsuit against Great Basin Unified Air Pollution Control District (GBUAPCD) and Ted Schade.

Given GBUAPCD’s effectiveness in protecting Owens Valley residents and their environment, one might have expected environmental groups and the county to reject this ultimatum outright. They didn’t. The Eastern  Sierra Audubon Society representative actually accepted the 45 square mile limit without hesitation, as did Supervisor Linda Arcularius (though she stated that she spoke for herself).

Former Agricultural Commissioner George Milovich took the ecologically informed position that the plan should consider the lake in the context of the entire valley, and that the rest of the valley shouldn’t be sacrificed for the lake. He cited ranchers being dried up by DWP to supply water to the lake, and he could have also cited over-pumped wellfields. Environmental groups maintained their alliance with DWP and ignored his comments.

The ES Audubon Society representative asserted that DWP’s ultimatum couldn’t be treated as an ultimatum even as he acquiesced to it. I suggest Inyo County do the opposite. Inyo should recognize DWP’s ultimatum as the ultimatum it clearly is, and reject it. This would effectively extricate the county from these counterproductive negotiations, which could possibly end current negotiations entirely. Let’s hope our new Board of Supervisors will have the backbone to do this (and not be unduly swayed by Supervisor Arcularius’s personal acquiescence to DWP).    When DWP’s lawsuit against GBUAPCD is concluded negotiations can start over under our new county leadership and, I hope, new leadership of environmental groups.

Daniel Pritchett Bishop, CA

 

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16 Responses to Letter to the editor: Bending to DWP ultimatum

  1. Trouble February 2, 2013 at 12:10 pm #

    I hope our new county supervisor reads your article. I know Jeff’s wife is a fine doctor and puts the peoples health first. I hope he puts our health and welfare first. Also, I would like to hear more about where this bird preserve is being proposed and what effect it will have on the our way of life up here?

     
    • Big AL February 2, 2013 at 11:27 pm #

      I think the way of life Trouble refers to is in reference to hunting opportunities. If we turn the lake into a bird sanctuary then people will not be able to hunt water foul there.

      Water foul populations have withered since DWP has diverted the water from the valley’s water ways and has dried up several bodies of water.

      With the lack of water in the valley, it has altered the flyway patterns and the amount of transient birds moving through the fly way, as well as the resident water fowl populations.

      Right now water fowl hunting is pretty dismal compared to a few decades ago. A bird sanctuary on the lake would be an asset to water fowl hunting. Maybe it would help bolster it .. but most certainly .. more water in the valley would bolster bird populations.

       
      • Kristan Walden February 3, 2013 at 10:27 am #

        Big Al, there was much more feed available to migratory birds, in years gone by. Along with the water disappearing, as you alluded to, you see very little migratory bird action. I even notice it in the smaller birds that used to frequent the trees and the grass on my home property. No Robins last year to eat the thousands and thousands of nightcrawlers in my turf. And, I didn’t see any Magpies either. You would think this would draw attention through bird counts done by Audobon (Sp.?).

         
      • Trouble February 3, 2013 at 12:13 pm #

        Big Al, I don’t really like the idea of DWP getting more ground water for any reason. If the bird folks really create a new preserve that doesn’t take away more access to our back yard, all the power to them. But not in exchange for more pumping.

         
    • NewDay February 3, 2013 at 9:32 am #

      Hopefully, Jeff will appoint Daniel and/or Sally Manning to the water commission. That will give them a better opportunity to influence policy.

       
  2. MJA February 2, 2013 at 12:56 pm #

    DWP’s focus on the watering and dust control of the dry lake is only a planned diversion of our attentions whilst they dry up all the rest. =

     
  3. Eileen Burger February 2, 2013 at 7:36 pm #

    I am curious. The article (written by Bennet Kessler or Daniel Pritchett, but I’m not sure which) mentions environmental groups (plural) several times, yet only one is named. There are a number of environmental groups in the Owens Valley besides the Eastern Sierra Audubon Society, and I am curious if others were at the meeting and following suit with ESAS.

    Thanks.

     
    • Benett Kessler February 2, 2013 at 9:28 pm #

      Eileen, My name should not be on the letter submitted by Daniel Pritchett. I posted it.
      Benett Kessler

       
  4. Mike Prather, Lone Pine February 2, 2013 at 7:37 pm #

    Response comments to Daniel Pritchett letter of Feb 2, 2013:

    1.) “Several local environmental groups seem to have decided to accept whatever terms DWP dictates in order to get an agreement to protect bird habitat at the lake.”
    RESPONSE – Completely untrue and with not even an attempt at support for this claim.

    2.) “…protect birds and put more water down the aqueduct, but wouldn’t protect ranchers and the environment in the rest of the valley.”
    RESPONSE: The chance to protect and enhance more than 20 square miles of historic shorebird and waterfowl habitat at Owens Lake is an opportunity that appears rarely. To reject its consideration is the height of irresponsibility. It is true that water saved, which belongs to Los Angeles, would probably go south. All stakeholders except LADWP of course, would like to keep some of that water in the valley.,

    3.) “…wouldn’t protect ranchers…” Members of the Owens Lake Master Plan group (30+ stakeholders) want more water for ranchers. I personally have been arguing for more for a local Lone Pine ranch, but have not seen the author at meetings or read any comments supporting this work.

    4.) “…this unlikely DWP-environmental group alliance.”
    RESPONSE: Such offensive claims are a trademark of the author. Anyone or any group that has ever negotiated with others knows that someone claiming you are in an ‘alliance’ is utterly unproductive language. What environmental group is the author a leader of?

    5.) “…47,500 acre feet/year increase in water exports to Los Angeles…”
    RESPONSE: That water is currently owned by the City of Los Angeles and it will go where they choose to send it. Keeping some of that water in the valley needs responsible and sincere negotiators and is outside the scope of the Owens Lake Master Planning Process.

    6.) “DWP distributed an ultimatum: a list of seven “objectives and components” that DWP “must have” in the Master Plan.”
    RESPONSE: This appears to be true and if the list of 5 ‘needs’ or ‘requirements’ is a line in the sand then that is a problem. That information should have been part of the OL Master Plan process all along.

    7.) “The Eastern Sierra Audubon Society representative actually accepted the 45 square mile limit without hesitation…”
    RESPONSE: Completely untrue. The only thing that will determine how many square of miles of dust control will be required is the Great Basin Unified APCD and the Clean Air Act.

    8.) “Environmental groups maintained their alliance with DWP and ignored his [George Milovich] comments.”
    RESPONSE: Pure speculation and, in fact, untrue. Environmental groups have voiced support for the rest of the valley since the beginning.

    9.) “The ES Audubon Society representative asserted that DWP’s ultimatum couldn’t be treated as an ultimatum even as he acquiesced to it.”
    RESPONSE: Was that person supposed to suddenly stand up and storm out of the room as is the behavior of the author over the years? Nothing was given away, the negotiations continue, no acceptance was implied and the Owens Lake Master Plan will eventually need to be approved by the group of stakeholders.

    10.) “Former Agricultural Commissioner George Milovich took the ecologically informed position that the plan should consider the lake in the context of the entire valley…”
    RESPONSE: SEE #3

    11.) “…extricate the county from these counterproductive negotiations…”
    RESPONSE: The Owens Lake Master Plan would save much water for the City of Los Angeles and take pressure off of the Delta and other places in California. It would protect and enhance thousands of acres of wildlife habitat in the southern Owens Valley for wildlife populations, recreation and ecotourism

    12.) “…and, I hope, new leadership of environmental groups.”
    RESPONSE: The author has had the opportunity to become a leader in all of the environmental groups in Owens Valley. He currently is not a leader in any of these groups.

    CLOSING:
    The work at Owens Lake is difficult and complex. But the potential benefits to our valley are enormous. To reject such work brings no other realistic benefit. Should we spend decades in court with endless delay, uncertainty and cost? Who will raise the money for that? I have done plenty of both raising money and traveling to courtrooms and I would prefer to pick my battles in order to achieve real results instead of unending “noise”. I believe it is the responsible path.

     
    • BishopBeans February 3, 2013 at 10:10 am #

      “The chance to protect and enhance more than 20 square miles of historic shoreline and waterfowl habitat…” There are about 40 square miles of newly created habitat on the Owens Lakebed right now. How does it benefit the valley to reduce the habitat and applied water by half? What’s in it for us? Half of any water savings should be committed back to the valley to support the ranchers and the irrigated pastures that have been dried up over the last decade by DWP. Keeping the water in the valley is not “outside the scope” of the Master Plan process. As Mr. Milovich contends, it’s all connected. Do not let DWP divide and conquer.

       
  5. Pat Rowbottom February 3, 2013 at 7:21 am #

    “Groundwater, groundwater, groundwater.”
    Inyo County preserve it!
    THAT is what the best interest for Inyo County AND…LADWP for the long run…not for the short run of LADWP, Supervisor, Great Basin Unified Air Pollution Control District, environmental group personalities’ issues. It is OBVIOUS drought is the creeping enemy within the ecosystem. Groundwater is the reserve account. Please do not waste it, or overpump it!!!! Simple.

     
    • NewDay February 3, 2013 at 9:33 am #

      Wow! That’s so simple! Why hasn’t anyone thought of that before now???

       
  6. Felipe February 3, 2013 at 9:05 am #

    re: #4 What environmental group is the author a leader of? He does not have to be a leader to share his opinion…SierraWave chose to publish it. Says right in the letter he “…attended as an observer”. The letter is his summary of what he observed…not a complete collection of everyone in attendance.

    re: #5 the Water is currently owned by LA – being acquired before anyone could see the environmental damage caused by excessive water transfers. While 47,500 acre feet per year does not look like much, maybe 15,485,000,000 gallons(yep billion with a B) of water does. Sticking a straw in the Owens Valley to placate LA’s poor water management was a quick and dirty solution. Owen’s Valley deserves better.

    No one knew Lake Erie could catch fire at random intervals – they cleaned it up. LA should finish the job they were supposed to complete on Owen’s Lake AND AND AND develop other water sources.

    Thanks Mr. Pritchett I appreciated your letter.

     
  7. Philip Anaya February 3, 2013 at 9:55 am #

    I want to thank the Author and the Sierra Wave for the continuing education of the water issues of the Eastern Sierra. Not that I have my head in the sand, but I was unaware of the Owens Lake Master Plan process.The web site containing a library full of information :

    https://owenslakebed.pubspsvr.com/

    seems to have a problem with it’ security certificate, whatever that means. I am getting the warning when I log on,

    “The Security Certificate presented by this website has expired or is not yet valid”

    That being said hopefully some webmaster will fix that and we can all explore the information safely.

    Mr. Prather’s posting is also very important and informative especially when there are conflicting views of the stakeholders positions. There are many individuals who have for many years worked well tirelessly for the our planet and the Owens Valley. Their reward is the product of their endeavors. I greatly respect these folks who work unpaid and care so much for a future that all of our children will forever benefit. The Stewardship of our waters by the DWP needs constant attention by all of us. Without our strong input, prodding and all of our combined enegy and knowledge, DWP will never have the ability nor the reason to improve on their Stewardship skills and results here in the Owens Valley. The Owens Valley Master Plan Stakeholders hopefully will be able to complete the Master Plan and hopefully the huge work will be in the best interest of the Owens Valley environment and at the same time allow for a sustainable export of sierra waters and that’s all that the LADWP can morally and reasonabley expect. That’s a thought , a LADWP with moral imperatives.

     
  8. Philip Anaya February 3, 2013 at 1:39 pm #

    I want to thank the Author and the Sierra Wave for the continuing education of the water issues of the Eastern Sierra. Not that I have my head in the sand, but I was unaware of the Owens Lake Master Plan process.The web site containing a library full of information :

    https://owenslakebed.pubspsvr.com/

    seems to have a problem with it’s security certificate, whatever that means. I am getting the warning when I log on,

    “The Security Certificate presented by this website has expired or is not yet valid”

    That being said hopefully some webmaster will fix that and we can all explore the information safely.

    Mr. Prather’s posting is also very important and informative especially when there are conflicting views of the stakeholders positions. There are many individuals who have for many years worked well tirelessly for the our planet and the Owens Valley. Their reward is the product of their endeavors. I greatly respect these folks who work unpaid and care so much for a future that all of our children will forever benefit. The Stewardship of our waters by the DWP needs constant attention by all of us. Without our strong input, prodding and all of our combined enegy and knowledge, DWP will never have the ability nor the reason to improve on their Stewardship skills and results here in the Owens Valley. The Owens Valley Master Plan Stakeholders hopefully will be able to complete the Master Plan and hopefully the huge work will be in the best interest of the Owens Valley environment and at the same time allow for a sustainable export of sierra waters and that’s all that the LADWP can morally and reasonabley expect. That’s a thought , a LADWP with moral imperatives.

     
  9. Trouble February 3, 2013 at 2:48 pm #

    No sports stories even on Super Bowl Sunday?

     

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