To cover Department of Water and Power and Inyo County meetings is painful. LA takes on the role of Colonial overlord and Inyo usually asks for crumbs in one way or another.
This time, at the Inyo-LA Standing Committee meeting on Friday in Independence, Inyo officials did stand up against DWP’s years-long broken promises, but not before City Councilman Tom LaBonge bragged about LA’s creation of a wetlands in the center of Los Angeles, likely using Owens Valley water. This comment was like a slap in the face to a County where DWP has mercilessly dried up all the wetlands and left them dry. LaBonge, oblivious to the truth, went on to tell how the City transformed its center as a wetland and taught young people. Then, on to a project for Inyo’s young people that DWP promised more than 20 years ago and never made it happen.
Instead of responding to Inyo officials’ wishes, DWP Water Manager Marty Adams launched into LA’s preemptive strike with a plan to jerry rig the Lone Pine School farm project and squeeze more water out of Inyo in the process. Instead of finally turning on the tap for 30 acre feet of water for the school like DWP promised, they wanted to move the whole project – fences, water distribution system and all over to lessee Tom Noland’s acres and use water there while at the same time installing bubblers in the Independence tree lot to reduce water there – a kind of unholy balancing of water droplets.
Brenda Lacey, agricultural instructor at the school, argued that the more permanent, easier, and less expensive plan to just turn water on to the existing farm was far better and more permanent than the expense of moving everything over next door to Tom Noland’s lease. Adams said, “We have to be smart about water.” He made it clear less water for the tree lot was a requirement to give water to the school. This scheme surfaced in the Friday meeting after 25 years of promises to the contrary.
The quid pro quo is worse than that. Water Director Bob Harrington reminded DWP that they came to Inyo and asked for a reduction in water for the McNally ponds and Van Norman mitigation measures. Inyo had agreed but only on the condition of extra water elsewhere, including the water for the school farm. DWP conveniently forgot about that agreement.
County Administrator Kevin Carunchio reminded them about the deal and the fact that the County had forged ahead with an environmental document on the farm project only to be derailed when LA decided they wanted to do the environmental review. Trouble is they never did it.
Carunchio said it was nice DWP and their lessee came up with a short-term plan even though everyone was calling for the promised, long-term solution. He said DWP saved quite a bit of water from the reduction at the McNally ponds. Carunchio said, “We had an agreement a year ago and it was not done. This is a matter of faith and trust.”
Supervisor Linda Arcularius followed that up with a motion that LA give the farm its water and finish their environmental document in time
for the growing season. She said, “This was intended over 20 years ago.”
LA officials wanted to caucus. They came back and voted no on the Arcularius motion. Inyo voted yes. With the dysfunctional Standing Committee rules, that was the end of that. Then LA swooped in to push their own short-term and more expensive plan to move the farm onto the adjoining lease and then move it back later after taking water away from Independence. It left people feeling uneasy.
Agriculture instructor Lacey said to DWP, “Just give us the water. It’s ludicrous to move and re-fence everything.” Several people, including Linda Arcularius, Bob Harrington, Scott Kemp, Brenda Lacey, Daris Moxley, Greg James and Kevin Carunchio, tried to reason with DWP, who would have none of it.
Nancy Masters of Independence pointed out that the Long Term Water Agreement promised 5 acre feet of water for the tree lot. Now, DWP wanted to take part of it away. We need that water, she said, for our environment. Masters pointed to all the mitigation measures never done by DWP and the water they owe Inyo. Said Masters, “Does Inyo owe DWP 30 acre feet for the farm project? No.”
DWP’s Marty Adams leaned on an old excuse when he said, “LA has no right to give away our water rights.” Councilman LaBonge escalated the word games when he went back 100 years and said the President agreed to give them the water. He didn’t seem to know that the Long Term Water Agreement gave some of it back. Linda Arcularius made it clear that they could complete the project as a public benefit not as a gift of water. She said, “Leave this malarkey somewhere else.”
Then two of the LA officials announced their helicopter was waiting to take them back and they had to go. Supervisor Rick Pucci said, “I’m a little upset. We didn’t know the meeting was going to end. As a courtesy, you should have told me.” Pucci continued the meeting anyway. Brenda Lacey finally gave in to DWP’s only offer of a plan for the school. And, so, LA had its way one more time.