Water for ranch leases still questionable

CentennialRanchWhile there has been no help for water in the Bishop Creek drainage, questions also remain about leases for Department of Water and Power ranchers.

In late March, Inyo Water Director Bob Harrington wrote a letter to Department of Water and Power Manager Jim Yannotta to say that new ranch leases give less water and less control over water than the Long Term Water Agreement allows. At last word, Harrington had not received a reply from DWP.

The Water Agreement says that DWP will continue to provide water to irrigated leases as it was in the 1981-82 run-off year and that lease policies remain as they were from 1970 to 1990. The Inyo Water Department says DWP’s new leases violate both promises. In particular, LA would give itself unilateral power to reduce water supply to irrigated lands. Water Director Harrington said that reductions in irrigation on LA-owned land due to drought are allowable but would need to be agreed to by the Board of Supervisors. He said, “LA has not requested that the County agree to such a reduction.”

Over time, LADWP has provided 5 acre feet of water per acre of ranch land. The new leases say “up to” 5 acre feet for ranches and “up to” 3 acre feet per acre for mitigation pastures. So, there is no longer a guarantee of the previous 5 acre feet per acre. The new leases also say that during irrigation season, stockwater will not be provided concurrently with irrigation water as it has been for many years and that DWP might charge for stockwater.

Mr. Yannotta said in recent weeks that “revised ranch lease language is consistent with the Water Agreement and is consistent with the language used in ranch leases since the 1970s. “However,” he said, “concerns have been raised about revised lease language that is purely intended to avoid the waste of water and discourage the taking of excess stockwater as a supplementary irrigation resource.” Yannotta said LADWP is “taking those concerns into consideration to more clearly convey conformance with the Water Agreement and the 1991 EIR and to use both irrigation and stockwater in a beneficial manner and avoid the waste of water pursuant to the California Constitution and State Water Code.”

Again, Water Director Harrington said the lease language on water gives less water and less control over it than the Water Agreement demands. Not answering that question, Yannotta does say LA will take a lot less water down the Aqueduct this year. With the drought, he says LA will receive about 38,000 acre feet or about “15% of normal.” LA has other sources of water, which do, of course, cost more than Eastern Sierra water.


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10 Responses to Water for ranch leases still questionable

  1. Philip Anaya July 6, 2014 at 6:47 pm #

    Hate to be reminded that the Bishop Creek issues have not been resolved .The latest DWP Northern District Daily Report has Bishop Creek below plant 6 at 108 cfs on July 1st .
    The Ranchers need to receive their water and Leases that comply with the LTWA. Inyo County has to enforce the provisions of the LTWA with respect to the Leases in a diligent manner in close cooperation with the Ranchers. I have little hope that Jim Yannotta and the DWP will be wanting to adhere to any agreement or commitment that they are subject to and might make and Inyo County needs to proceed immediately to protect the ranchers and the Long Term Water Agreement. The entire Owens Valley Community needs to support the Ranchers and let the Board of Supes that this is a vital crossroad for the future of DWP Inyo County relations.

  2. Trouble July 6, 2014 at 9:32 pm #

    Mr. Harrington, at some point you have to stand up for the people you are supposed to repersent. Inyo County residents are again drilling wells as we speak and you appear to turn a blind eye to this issue. Like it or not, you are the one representing the Valley right now!

  3. Waxlips July 7, 2014 at 5:15 am #

    Call them the fortunate ones: Nearly 4,000 California companies, farms and others are allowed to use free water with little oversight when the state is so bone dry that deliveries to nearly everyone else have been severely slashed. Their special status dates back to claims made more than a century ago when water was plentiful. But in the third year of a drought that has ravaged California, these “senior rights holders” dominated by corporations and agricultural concerns are not obliged to conserve water. Nobody knows how much water they actually use, though it amounts to trillions of gallons each year, according to a review of their own reports by The Associated Press. Together, they hold more than half the rights to rivers and streams in California. KTVU San Francisco.

    Holding us hostage, using the drought as an excuse to grab more water, more water rights and more land, California needs to fix their out-dated water laws, before they take anymore water from Eastern Sierra communities.

  4. Buck Turgidson July 7, 2014 at 8:48 am #

    I would appreciate Mr. Yannotta giving an example of how water is wasted in the Owens Valley.

  5. Rob July 7, 2014 at 1:49 pm #

    They will take Eastern Sierra water down to the last drop, then they’ll try to take more.

    Good luck

  6. philip anaya July 7, 2014 at 7:16 pm #

    The effect of the DWP operations in the Owens Valley is worse than any 3rd year drought Nature can throw at us .Times like these we need special, evolved, enlightened management individuals, decisions and talent and Jim Yannotta has not provided any solutions for the Valley . He has provided only nonsense ideas and statements and his management style and that of his Northern District Water Master Bob Pendergas(b) has not found a way to share the burden of Natures effect with the local conditions, economic, environmental and sustainable solutions .
    That being said , I wish both of them well and a quick golden parachute retirement. They are both toothless, inadequate, they lack knowledge and will and have provided only rhetoric and road apples to address the meat of stewardship of the Owens Valley / Sierra Nevada resource that has been entrusted to them. They serve only themselves with their management concerns and choices and seem only concerned with their advancement in the Department. Recommend that no one should buy a car and certainly a Brooklyn Bridge from either of these individuals .
    When I was with the vato loco fellas in camp there was a social behavior to effect individuals who were outside the lets say, ” the community” . These individuals were subjected to “movidas” an estrangement, a denial of their existence in the community. I, myself will no longer be cordial to these two people. I will be exercise restraint but there is no longer any respect for these two guys as individuals in my community. I will talk about them truthfully and complain to the hierarchy of the DWP. I will be constant and vow to effect change . Something needs to be done to evolve this never ending cycle of miss managers and sign me up por vida . My life in the SFV sucking the Owens Valley dry washing the driveway,washing down the decks , et al, require the effort .
    I believe they feel the same way about any of us self professed “environmental activists” as they have continued to deprecate and BS not only me , not only been actively shucking and jiving the Community, but they have in their miss adventures been ripping into the environment of the Owens Valley, into the economic well being of the West Bishop Homeowners who have lost their water in their kitchen into economic well being of South and Sabrina Lakes Operators and every Bishop business that provides the Bishop Creek recreation and fishery visitors, a room, a meal, directions, Panther Martins, worms ,crickets , a welcome to our Inyo County ,a welcome to Bishop Creek, it’s trails ,mountains ,waters , the majesty of it all . Two DWP stewards of a diminished resource yet finding ways to extract blood out of a turnup. Next stop: rake the lease holders, our Ranchers, over the coals .

    • Daris July 8, 2014 at 11:33 am #

      Thank You Phil for telling it like it is and for speaking up for the Owens Valley. Now if only our Supervisors, the Water Department, all the Owens Valley Tribes (they have the Federal Government) and all those concerned citizens of Owens Valley would shout loud enough maybe it will be heard in Los Angeles and may be even Washington DC.

  7. Clyde Allan July 7, 2014 at 10:45 pm #

    Does anyone expect anything from the DWP. They delay any action against them, defend with the deepest of pockets with any legal means possible. They only want all the water they can get from the Owens Valley. They delay transfer of rights which cancel sales of property or business rights or just do not allow transfer at all! There influence has destroyed the core and heart of the valley. Pity on you long term good old Boy’s for sucking off the DWP teat!

  8. bishop rocks July 9, 2014 at 8:36 am #

    I read in the LA Times this morning that while voluntary water conservation efforts statewide are still inadequate, most coastal cities have conserved about 5% on average. Except in LA, where the fountains still flow and the landscaping is still maintained. Water usage there has increased 1% to 4%. This is unacceptable.

    @DWP: I’m confident you’ve been provided at least as good information as the rest of us, but let me explain to you the facts as I understand them: There is a serious drought. It is estimated that there is enough water for California for the next 12 to 18 months. Water conservation policies should be mandatory at this point. People in our communities have no water in their homes, because you insist on your water rights for LA. Yet you use this precious commodity to wash the sidewalks, keep your lawns green, and fill your pools. Despite the clear and abundant evidence that water is becoming a scarce resource, you callously brush off the concerns of our communities as environmentalist hyperbole or the rehashing of an age-old feud, while keeping your customers under the belief that somehow Southern California hasn’t been impacted by the drought, resulting in an (unbelievable) increase in water usage. I think your LA lawns should look at least as dry as our Owens Valley meadows.


  9. Rick O'Brien July 9, 2014 at 6:20 pm #

    Lake Mead is at it’s lowest point since it was built in the early 1930’s…


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