Letter to the editor: How about conservative pumping?

groundwater_pump_349-2.jpgWhere are fiscal conservatives when we need them?

With recent attention in both on-line and print media to dry wells and lack of water and livestock forage, it would be easy for me to write “I told you so.” After all, I have written numerous articles and letters for at least a decade pointing out that DWP’s long term average pumping (about 90,000 acre- feet/yr) exceeds the 70,000 af/yr ceiling estimated by the USGS for maintaining groundwater shallow enough to sustain vegetation (and shallow wells). These letters have had little apparent effect on Inyo County leaders, who have yet to mount a serious challenge to DWP’s excessive pumping.

Because stating the facts has proven ineffective, I’ll try an analogy. Water tables have some similarities to bank accounts. The balance in a bank account at any time depends on how much money is being deposited and how much is being withdrawn. Based on the USGS model, we know, valley-wide, we have an enormous deficit in our water account dating back to the mid 1980’s, because withdrawals (groundwater pumping, ~90,000 af/yr) are far higher than deposits (recharge, ~ 70,000 af/yr).

Now, we are seeing consequences of the long term water deficit — drying wells and ranchers being forced to reduce their herds. However, instead of seeking to rein in excessive spending (groundwater pumping) Inyo leaders blame lack of deposits (reduced recharge due to drought). Recent comments by Inyo County Water Department Director Bob Harrington are a case in point, and his predecessors used a similar strategy.

The deficit in our water account means that spending exceeds income. The spending (pumping) can be controlled, yet our leaders mention only the reduction in income (drought), which cannot.

I’ll bet a majority of Inyo County voters consider themselves “fiscal conservatives.” Would fiscal conservatives knowingly vote for candidates whose plan to reduce deficits amounts to ignoring excessive spending (pumping) and simply calling for increased income (praying for snow)?

Daniel Pritchett Bishop, CA


26 Responses to Letter to the editor: How about conservative pumping?

  1. Ann Martini January 5, 2014 at 6:41 am #

    You said it, brother! Could not have put it better myself.

  2. Philip Anaya January 5, 2014 at 6:42 am #

    I am reminded of a favorite Bumper sticker

    ” I can’t be overdrawn, I still have checks”

    • sugar magnolia January 5, 2014 at 11:36 am #

      That’s a good one….I like this one – ‘Who would Jesus Bomb?” Petty much says it all

  3. Trouble January 5, 2014 at 7:16 am #

    Maybe all the people paying twenty plus grand for their new wells might want to ask a judge to look into this matter?

  4. Patricia Rowbottom January 5, 2014 at 8:28 am #

    I’ve commented on the same theme MANY times to LADWP Admin. Personnel.
    In the “career driven” corporate world of LADWP it has been a game of musical chairs. “Take as much water as you can, to produce your quotos, …until the music stops.” Hopefully, brother, you won’t come up without the water in the well. Even retired northern district engineer, Bob, Phillips (circa 1950’s), cautioned…”only pump that year’s annual precipatation percentage.”

  5. MJA January 5, 2014 at 9:14 am #

    Well said David, pun intended.

    If I may add my 2 drops worth: Save the Owens Valley. What is needed is a new agreement based on a set ground water level that ensures the health and lives of the Owens Valley and at the same time supplies the excess water if there is any to southern California. A set minimum water level at Mono Lake preserves that lake today thank to David Gaines and the Mono Lake Committee. That same type of agreement is the only agreement that would work equitably for the Owens and LA. And if you think it can’t be done well it can be, we even have a blue print for how to do it, its called Save Mono Lake..

  6. Daris January 5, 2014 at 10:19 am #

    Thanks Dan; Pat Mr Phillips was a man of intergrity;
    I have been before the Board of Supervisors, the Water Commission, the Bishop Creek Water Association, and the DWP in Technical and Standing Committe meetings to ask questions about the inforcement of the Long Term Water Agreement. The LTW A states the DWP shall maintain vegetation in the Owens Valley as it was in 1981-82, I believe any person who was here then and now is can see the difference in vegetation just by looking.
    I understand that we are having a dry period. There have been periods of drought in this valley for as long as I can remember, and when we finally got moisture the land recovered.
    What about the commitment to the Long Term Water Agreement Inyo Supervisors and DWP will you stand up for what was agreed to by both parties?

  7. Mongo The Idiot January 5, 2014 at 10:43 am #

    That’s a big straw you have in my milkshake.
    Keep your earthquake insurance up in case the subsidence happens all at once.

  8. sugar magnolia January 5, 2014 at 11:35 am #

    While I agree with everything you say, I think you overestimate Inyo County’s control over the situation. I’ve been here over 20 years and I have only seen Inyo make deals with LADWP that benefit LADWP. Why? I’m not sure. My first question was why they had a guy( Greg James) negotiating for Inyo County who was being paid by DWP.

    My feeling is LADWP laughs about how lame Inyo County is. They lead Inyo by the nose each time they make an agreement with LADWP getting everything they want.

    I think we need to look at how the Mono Lake suit was successful and try to emulate that. From everything I’ve seen, Inyo County is not capable of taking on LADWP

  9. Michael Prather January 5, 2014 at 12:37 pm #

    Some recent history:

    Assurances were made in 2004, during the conservation easement consideration by Mayor Hahn, that the valley had been well protected by LADWP for 100 years and that it would continue to be so protected. (California Water News, July 26, 2004). In this article Councilman LaBonge stated, “…Los Angeles has carefully protected and preserved this area, which is why these lands are so attractive and valued today.” and, “Los Angeles has protected the Owens Valley for the past 100 years from unwanted and unnecessary development.” In an LA Times, July 7, 2004 article LADWP General Manager Frank Salas said, “…environmentalists and the DWP are in agreement that Owens Valley should be preserved and maintained in its current condition for future generations.”

    “Remember the Owens Valley” – once again.

    • Desert Tortoise January 5, 2014 at 9:30 pm #

      LA really doesn’t have to give Inyo or Mono Counties the time of day if they don’t wish to. Being a Charter City, under the California Constitution Article 11 Los Angeles is not subject to regulations that conflict with it’s charter. The charter of a charter city is in effect a body of state law that takes precedence over regional or local laws. Charter cities may, if they wish, write their laws to align with those of the county or other regional agencies, but under our Constitution they are not obliged to, The only entities that a charter city has to worry about are the State Legislature, Federal government agencies and the courts.

      I know saying that is going to bend a whole bunch of people’s noses out of joint, but one has to understand how our Constitutional form of government works and adjust their expectations accordingly. If push came to shove a Charter City can tell a county BOS to stuff it. Only the courts and the state legislature have any authority to over rule the City Council of a Charter City, and only then on matters that are of statewide importance. Don’t hold an expectation for something that legally cannot happen.

      • Nemo January 6, 2014 at 8:38 am #

        It would be helpful, Tortoise, to know whereof you speak before rendering an opinion.
        The City of Los Angeles is subject to state law – in this case, the California Environmental Quality Act. Thank heavens that Inyo County was smart enough to use that new law in 1972 when they took Los Angeles to court. Thank heavens that they were people of courage. If Frank Fowles, Buck Gibbons and others had not acted, our Owens Valley would be far drier than it is today.
        Inyo County came out of the lawsuit with an agreement, the Long Term Water Agreement, and mitigation measures in the 1991 EIR, which was amended by an MOU. All of this was approved by the State Court of Appeals on June 13, 1997. So you see, this lawsuit actually took 25 years of focus and determination on the part of Inyo County, groups like OVC, and the citizens of the County.
        I’d suggest that everyone familiarize themselves with these documents, and what Los Angeles’ obligation is under these agreements. Then ask yourself what has happened in the 16 years since Court approval. Los Angeles has had to be forced through court action to do the Lower Owens River Project, the chief mitigation measure in the 1991 EIR. Today, they will not follow the recommendations of the river consultants to create a healthy river. And, who had to take precious time and money to sue the City of Los Angeles to get the LORP started? – citizens acting through the Owens Valley Committee and Sierra Club.
        LADWP has not even begun some of the revegetation projects that were agreed to in the 1991 EIR. That’s 22 years later, folks. Who’s gonna make ’em? If I were a betting person, I’d say it will be the same citizens – OVC and Sierra Club. So, if you love this valley and its plants and animals, get behind these groups. And, talk to your supervisors. Tell them you want the Board of Supervisors to actively enforce every aspect of the Agreements. Because that’s all the Owens Valley is ever going to get.

        • Desert Tortoise January 7, 2014 at 8:59 am #

          This is directly from Article 11

          “SEC. 5. (a) It shall be competent in any city charter to provide
          that the city governed thereunder may make and enforce all ordinances
          and regulations in respect to municipal affairs, subject only to
          restrictions and limitations provided in their several charters and
          in respect to other matters they shall be subject to general laws.
          City charters adopted pursuant to this Constitution shall supersede
          any existing charter, and with respect to municipal affairs shall
          supersede all laws inconsistent therewith.”

          You need to understand that last sentence. State courts have generally ruled that the laws of charter cities supercede county ordnances and are free to differ from state law unless there is an over riding statewide concern that conflicts with the law of charter city that is in question. If there is no statewide concern, then the courts have upheld the supremacy of charter city ordinances over other laws when conflicts have arisen. It is only when there is an overarching statewide concern that the courts have ruled that other laws may supercede those of a charter city. This is why the only entities that have successfully forced LA to do anything are the courts. None of this is the least bit mysterious or conspiratorial. LA is doing what any charter city would do, and that is protect their power under the law as a charter city to write their own ticket. That is why a city adopts a charter rather than remain a general law city.

          The only organizations that can over rule a Charter City are the courts, the State Legislature (something the legislature is loathe to do since the bulk of the lower house members represent charter cities) and certain Federal agencies. When you understand the power a charter city has under our state constitution, everything LA is doing makes complete sense, from their point of view. Their mayor and city council are not elected to represent the interests of Inyo or Mono Counties and they are allowed under our laws to operate free from either counties interference. So expecting LA to do anything simply because the Inyo or Mono County BoS asks them to do is not even a remotely reasonable expectation. Unless you have a court order, Inyo and Mono Counties have no constitutional authority to tell LA anything.

      • Frodo January 6, 2014 at 9:22 am #

        Good grief Desert Tortoise! Do you even live in Inyo County? Have you ever read any of the legally binding agreements between the City of Los Angeles and Inyo County? The fact that the City of Los Angeles is a charter city does not in any way affect the requirement that they comply with the Long Term Water Agreement/1991 EIR. They are not above the law! That is the issue here. There are mitigation measures that have yet to be completed. There is environmental degradation that continues to happen because of the City’s bad faith. You need to rethink your argument…it is not applicable at all to this discussion.

        • Mark January 6, 2014 at 12:16 pm #

          “They are not above the law!”

          It appears they are from my perspective.

        • Desert Tortoise January 7, 2014 at 9:08 am #

          LA is bound by the courts, not by the Inyo or Mono County BoS. LA is like any litigant in a civil dispute, pushing to test the limits of a court order. If you had a business none of this would surprise you. It is common as dirt for someone you sue and have stipulation against to push back and see how far they can go before the court orders them to do something else. They are trying to wear you down and make you give in. Just as I cannot go into my opponents business and make them do anything (though I might like to, heh, heh, heh, with a fist) I have no legal power to do anything in their business. I have to rely on the courts to issue judgements, and even then I might have to waste my own time and energy trying to collect any judgement the court granted me. The court is not going to chase the guy for payment, that is my problem.

          So you have a similar situation here. LADWP under law doesn’t have to give the BoS the time of day. A court however, can over rule LA and they routinely do. Talking nice to talking tough to LA is a waste of breath. You have to talk in court and be willing to follow through. Don’t blame LA for pushing back. Their elected officials are elected to represent LA, not this region. When push comes to shove they will protect their number one, not yours. Why would you expect otherwise? It is not rational. The only recourse for Inyo and Mono Counties are effective data collection (evidence) and persistence in the courts. Fines and court orders are the only things that make LA do anything, which if you understand the power of a charter city, is only natural. There are your recourses, more fines and court orders. Don’t wish for what cannot be.

          Sorry to sound so hard nosed but this is about the raw exercise of power. Understand that, make your peace with that fact, and learn how to win by exercising more power than LA has, through the courts.

      • Philip Anaya January 6, 2014 at 9:57 am #

        Your post regarding Los Angeles and it’s Charter City designation is a vital question that needs to be addressed. I do not have the knowledge really to discuss the issue, but I have looked at this website.
        My reading of this chart allows a Charter City to have it’s own rules of self determination within the sectors of it’s own local government. I do not see any provision for the Charter City to restrict the self determination of any other governmental entity outside it’s City borders. There is a current question of the application of Inyo County’s rights with regard to our General Plan and the DWP Solar Ranch Project but maybe that falls under other provisions in the Law. I would be interested to learn more about all of this. What for instance would be some of your ideas for the work arounds so that You, I and Everyone would have our rights assured. Expectations are that everyone has equal rigths, equal self determination to elect our own Representitives, who are able to craft a General Land Use Plan, appoint a Planning Director and thus a Staff and administer that Plan across the board equally to all.
        The contentious state of affairs between LADWP and the People and Government of Inyo County is evidence that whatever regulations are in force are in conflict and if the City of Los Angeles continues with it’s attempts at imperialistic domination they will eventually lose as empires come and go. Their Operations and their Management style is not sustainable. Home is where the heart is and home to us inhabitants of the Owens Valley will not and can not be dictated too. No one I know here in the Valley is ever going to agree to that. People in the Owens Valley have the pioneer spirit . They know the importance of where their water comes from and We know the DWP all to well.

        • Desert Tortoise January 7, 2014 at 9:17 am #

          The only thing that makes LA do anything is a court order with large enough fines for non-compliance. The region will only have the “rights” they are willing fo fight for in court and are able to prove with adequate data. Don’t expect anything else.

          As for “empires falling”, don’t hold your breath that LA is going to dry up and blow away. LA County is the manufacturing center of the US. Do you think they will disappear? Hardly. To be blunt, they are too important economically for that to happen. The state will find a way to keep our big cities supplied with water if for no othe reason than the fact that most of the members of the State Legislature come from such cities. Mono and Inyo Counties only allies will be the courts and their own careful data collection to use as evidence in the courts.

      • sugar magnolia January 6, 2014 at 10:05 am #

        enough with this dribble DT, you are misinterpreting the law, plain and simple.

  10. Ann Martini January 5, 2014 at 5:21 pm #

    The Sacramento Bee has a very interesting article in today’s paper (1-5-14) about the Owens Valley water situation and DWP. Even has an time laps video of the dust storms we get off the dry lake. Check it out!

  11. Water Moccasin January 5, 2014 at 7:39 pm #

    Fighting it here could help set a new precedent for this statewide and worldwide problem of abuse. That would be poetic justice for Owens Valley.

  12. JeremiahJoseph January 6, 2014 at 8:47 am #

    Well done Daniel, I hear you Brother.
    We have the ability, all I can think of now is coming together and making it happen in a organized fashion, but do we have the resources to carry out a long tough battle? We have rights, its just time to practice them..

  13. Buffalo Billious January 6, 2014 at 10:37 am #

    Nice letter Daniel, your dirt biking neighbors to the north appreciate it. There is ample proof that a dry west (and eastern sierra) is the historical norm. I am sure that DWP is aware.


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