LA River plans dwarf LORP

In recent days, the head of the federal Environmental Protection Agency strolled along the Los Angeles River with Mayor Eric Garcetti. The City wants money from the EPA for a $1 billion project to restore and landscape the LA River. The elaborate project once more makes Inyo County residents feel like the forgotten step child. Re-watering of the Lower Owens River was hard fought through the courts, and the river remains mostly unusable.

Boating through the tules.  Photo by Frank Colver

Boating through the tules. Photo by Frank Colver

With as much as $1 billion in federal and municipal money, the City of Los Angeles hopes to restore an eleven-mile stretch of the LA River with elaborate landscaping, marshland habitat, bike and walking trails. It’s still in planning with some local opposition to the cost. Tonya Durrell of LA River Restoration said that plans do not “anticipate that our project will have a significant reliance on imported water.” So, it’s unclear exactly how much Eastern Sierra water will help the LA River Project. Meanwhile, at the source of water for LA, the Owens Valley struggles to make the Lower Owens River navigable and recreation-friendly with marginal success. Los Angeles has offered no financial help.

As river awareness grows among LA people, Inyo County works on a Lower Owens River Recreation Use Plan which was approved by the Board of Supervisors and LADWP. The next step is a final design and environmental review. The main feature is what’s called a paddle trail – a clear area of the river for non-motorized boating or kayaking. Larry Freilich, Inyo Water Department Mitigation Manager, said the Lower Owens Recreation Plan has drawn a lot of interest. Businesses see it as a major way to attract more customers. Outdoors people love the idea of boating and walking along the Owens. So far, a lack of funds and plenty of tules stand in the way.

Freilich said it’s a challenge to clear a desired sixteen miles – two, eight mile stretches – of the river. Tules choke off many areas. But remarkably, Freilich and the river itself have attracted a growing group of volunteers willing to get out there with hand tools and remove the bulrushes. In August, the group cleared 100 yards in a day. Freilich called it “rewarding work in a beautiful environment. It’s given us real hope,” he said. Volunteers cleared about a mile and a third in six days of work from Lone Pine to Keeler Bridge.

While LA pushes for a billion-dollar re-make of its river, even the most modest money is an issue for the river LA dried up years ago. Right now, the funds are not even available to finish the planning and design phase. Freilich said he and others are looking. He said there are grants which would pay for the actual paddle trails. The Recreation Plan includes two paddle trails, a river-long walking trail, fishing access and signage. He hopes to update the Inyo Supervisors in December.

The surprising response of volunteers on the river has given Freilich a lift. He said, “I’m inspired by the people joining in on this.” Bystanders wish the party responsible for the river destruction in the first place would lend a hand too.


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27 Responses to LA River plans dwarf LORP

  1. Ken Warner November 24, 2013 at 2:27 pm #

    LORP is a great idea. It would be tragic if the L.A. river project got funded while leaving the Lower Owens River uncared for.

  2. Desert Tortoise November 25, 2013 at 8:01 am #

    Considering how much LA needs to spend repairing sidewalks and streets I question their judgement spending money “restoring” the LA River. I also wonder if this “restored” river will be able to carry floods in the future. There are very good reasons the LA River was channelized like it is.

  3. Carla Scheidlinger November 25, 2013 at 1:44 pm #

    Greater Los Angeles has over 16 million people. Inyo County has about 25 thousand. It is not hard to do the math on the number of people who would actually use each project.

    • Benett Kessler November 25, 2013 at 2:41 pm #

      It’s also not hard to do the math on the number of acre feet of water LA gets from the Eastern Sierra to sustain itself and the enormous damage that LA has done over the years. Math also says it would not take $1 billion to make the Lower Owens River an enjoyable and healthy waterway. But, then, many do not live by math alone. There are those who stand by environmental justice.
      Benett Kessler

      • Ken Warner November 25, 2013 at 6:35 pm #

        I suppose it’s not difficult to understand why our elected representative in Federal and State Government tend to keep quiet on these sorts of issues.

        • Desert Tortoise November 26, 2013 at 8:31 am #

          How many state legislators and members of Congress represent districts in Los Angeles County? Coming from down there one frequently resents that rural areas have representation out of proportion to their small populations. If you look at places like Wyoming or Montana, they have smaller populations than some LA area Congressional districts yet each state has two Senators who can and frequently do obstruct the will of the majority, because they can. The same is true of rural areas in California. Agriculture employs at most 10% of the state’s population and is about 10% of the state’s GDP, yet look at the clout their legislators and lobbyists weild in Sacramento, and in Washington DC.

        • a broken system November 26, 2013 at 10:20 am #

          Don’t forget the self-serving BS our local elected officials pull. One guy from Mammoth (Lehman) is a realtor who thinks it’s okay for the town taxpayers who elected him to purchase his property then there’s the Mono county bozos (Johnston and Fesko) who insist on reducing the salaries of all non-union employees except for their own – let’s face it … the system is severely broken.

      • Desert Tortoise November 26, 2013 at 8:37 am #

        LA produces. The water you cry about is put to it’s most productive use in Los Angeles. It is not wasted. The residents of Los Angeles also use a fraction of the gallons per person per day that is used by Inyo and Mono County residents. The residents of the city use about 125 gallons per person per day while those of Mono county use over 400 gallons per person per day. The water wasters are up here in the Owens Valley. Yes LA takes water from the Valley, but because it is costly to do this it is expensive ($100 plus water bills are the norm) and thus uses sparingly. Even with those lawns some here like to whine about LA still only uses about 125 gallons per person per day. I am tires of hearing all the uninformed sniveling from the Owens Valley about LA wasting water when in fact they are very thrifty with it’s use.

        • Benett Kessler November 26, 2013 at 9:46 am #

          Water conservation in a desert should be protocol. No gold stars there. I’m talking about ethical behavior. LA dried up the Owens Valley and took nearly all but tourism away to develop communities. Ethically speaking, if they are willing to seek $1 billion to fix up their own river, using some of Eastern Sierra water, LA should certainly provide far less money to make the river they ruined useable, enjoyable and healthy.
          Benett Kessler

        • Bob Loblaw November 26, 2013 at 11:48 am #

          Hate to pop your Producers vs. Wasters argument, but the water “Wasted” in Inyo and Mono Counties but when you water your lawn, the water isn’t all going away. Much of it seeps back into the aquifer, which around these parts, is where it came from. Also, I’d be interested in the source of your information about usage. It seems a tad skewed, as an awful lot of Mono County residents have their own well, and have unlandscaped property.

          • Mark November 26, 2013 at 2:16 pm #

            i highly doubt any lawn water seeps back into the aquifer, let alone much of it.

            and LADWP knows it or they’d let ranchers irrigate all they want.

          • Benett Kessler November 26, 2013 at 3:29 pm #

            Yes, much of the water does go back into the aquifer. There is some evaporation and use by plants, but also return of water to the underground.

          • Water Moccasin November 26, 2013 at 8:34 pm #

            Unless you graze livestock on them, lawns are stupid everywhere. What water does make it back to aquifer carries lawn chemicals and pollutes aquifer. Improper irrigation leads to salinization of soil fairly quickly. This is water that should be used properly growing food or left alone. Owens Valley land and aquifer is lucky to be spared century of modern agriculture in that it is not polluted. If water was to be restored to the valley now and we used the ancient and current knowledge, it could become a center of truly sustainable agriculture worldwide.

          • Ken Warner November 27, 2013 at 9:24 am #

            When you spray water to wet your lawn — or golf course — a lot of it just evaporates. Whatever seeps into the ground and makes it through all the caliche takes years to actually make it into the water table.

            Here in Mammoth, we have these heroic, well tended lawns and golf courses that look completely out of place in the pine forests. People spend thousands of dollars to water them. They just look silly to me. Like Greek columns in front of buildings and doilies on tables.

            I would be really impressed with a hydroponic garden growing tomatoes and lettuce that I could eat.

            There’s a lot I don’t understand about modern values….

          • Benett Kessler November 27, 2013 at 10:09 am #

            Tourism and real estate nearly require golf courses and greenery. Mammoth Community Water District has gone the distance to create a distribution system for recycled water for Sierra Star and Snowcreek. Not sure if it’s all completed but it’s close.

          • Mark November 27, 2013 at 12:08 pm #

            I drive to Bishop to golf. Less expensive and nicer weather.

            I get a kick ot of Benett’s mater of fact “yes, much of the water does go back into the aquifer”.

            I’ve done enough research to know better. But I would expect a comment like that from someone who is pro Owen’s Valley and not so happy with LADWP.

          • Benett Kessler November 27, 2013 at 12:10 pm #

            I’m no hydrologist, but let’s put it this way. More water returns to our aquifer here than the water that goes down the aqueduct. Would you buy that?

        • sugar magnolia November 26, 2013 at 1:05 pm #

          You’ve thrown those numbers around before and I’ve said before, they have to be wrong ( or more accurately, include non-comparable data).

          In Mono County, it’s extremely rare to have a lawn and most people don’t even have yards. How those residents could be using almost 4 times as much water as LA residents, who a large portion have yards and lawns, is inexplicable.

          Obviously, if industrial type uses are included in these numbers, due to the small population in Mono County, the per capital numbers would skew enormously.

        • sugar magnolia November 26, 2013 at 1:22 pm #

          this link provides some of DT’s numbers. It does show Mono County at 471 gal per capital but LA is one of the higher cities at 185 gal per capita.

          I have a new theory on Mono’s numbers. While LA has tourists, as does SF, a 10% influx of tourists at one time would be huge. While Mono County has the entire population DOUBLE (or more) frequently. The water used by the visitors is lumped into the per capita totals for Mono County population. Find a way to normalize the numbers for tourists and the numbers will change.

          As George Zimmer would say, ‘I guarantee it’

        • Russ Monroe November 26, 2013 at 2:18 pm #

          I can’t tell you how distressed I am that a whining irrelevant pseudonym is “tires” of hearing the truth form the Owens Valley, Oh, that’s right; I can’t because you have no case Deasert Tort.
          My home pumps 1,000 gallons a day from the aquifer, and 1,000 gallons of that water is recycled back into the ecosystem here, every day. If I pumped 100,000 gallons a day, and spread it, flushed i,t or in any way “use ” it, the water is still in the local ecosystem and I have not “waited’ one single drop. None leaves the ecosystem. Every drop that goes to LA is removed from this ecosystem and then flushed out to sea.
          And, Oh, by the way, the water table under Lone Pine was measured in inches below the surface, before the diversions started, now it is measured in hundreds of feet. Try doing some of your second grade data research on how long it will take to empty the water table when the DW&P takes 95% of the recharge potential every year.
          As always; your point is invalid. You continue to have nothing to say, but gosh you are going to say it 25 times a day, aren’t you?

          • Water Moccasin November 26, 2013 at 9:19 pm #

            The water you pump alters the natural local ecosystem. Unlimited pumping would lower aquifer through evaporation alone even if water used locally.
            I have seen clouds leave the valley, so some of your water probably does too. Flushing human waste into leach lines with an aquifer inches below the surface doesn’t work out too well for local ecosystem either.

        • Justitia November 27, 2013 at 12:22 am #

          You sidestep the underlying issues, Mr. Tortoise.
          First, you apply the concept of “waste” in anthropocentric terms. Au contraire, Owens Valley’s water is not wasted when it nurtures alkaline meadows and emerges in seeps and springs that support a myriad of life forms. Before 1905, the creeks were not a waste when they flowed downward toward the Valley and hosted riparian plants and animals. Nor is water used on Owens Lake a waste when it controls dust and coincidentally creates habitat for water birds.
          Ranchers would tell you that Owens Valley water is not wasted when it irrigates pastures and meadows creating both environmental and economic health.
          I would tell you that water is not wasted when it irrigates our lilacs and trees, our vegetable gardens and the beautiful Courthouse grounds. I would also tell you that since groundwater pumping for export began in earnest, it takes much more surface water to slake the thirst of plants since they no longer tap the groundwater.

          The second issue that you ignore is the concept of area of origin. The Owens Valley is the source, and should have the primary right to its water for the survival of its inhabitants. Our culture has failed to engage in an open discussion regarding the rights of nature. The likelihood of that debate occurring now is slim, with increasing competition between humans and the rest of the natural world, engendered by population growth and the refusal to acknowledge limits to consumption. However, a seminal legal analysis of the inherent rights of the natural world is in this article, entitled Should Trees Have Standing, written at the time of Disney’s bid to develop Mineral King in 1972. It was powerful enough to sway Supreme Court Justice William O. Douglas, and it should be required reading for all as conflicts increase between human desires and nature’s needs.

    • Desert Tortoise November 26, 2013 at 8:26 am #

      What are you calling “greater Los Angeles? The county has a population of 9.962 million and the city has a population of 3.858 million. The residents of Orange, Ventura and San Bernardino counties are not part of “greater LA” and should not be so grouped. They are geographically distinct.

    • Desert Tortoise November 26, 2013 at 8:40 am #

      Btw, Inyo County has a population of about 18,500 and Mono County a population of about 14,350.

  4. JeremiahJoseph November 25, 2013 at 2:22 pm #

    Wasn’t the re-watering of the river for the habitats and much needed riparian areas? But remains unusable? Oh for humans? Psssh….
    “Businesses see it as a major way to attract more customers. Outdoors people love the idea of boating and walking along the Owens.”
    You know the town of Independence could use more customers for their businesses, but if LADWP didn’t have the majority of the land LOCKED UP, the business and county may not be so reliant on what scraps the City lets “trickle down” to the communities in the Owens Valley.

    So the city is requesting federal funds, for damage it continues to contribute to, and then continue to benefit from the damage it creates, even if the outcome needs federal assistance?? Wow? not surprised, but this is the world we live in….

  5. Mongo The Idiot November 26, 2013 at 2:58 pm #

    I cut way back on my blogging and focusing on how messed up everything is and feel so much better! I have learned a couple of real pretty songs on the guitar, I bought a harmonica, I have gone for long walks and have met some very nice people in the neighborhood. My dog had steak and eggs for breakfast the other day, afterward we played for hours. I hope you ALL have a fantastic thanksgiving and take a bit of time to go outside and enjoy this marvelous place!
    Happy Holiday, be well, and may your spirits be blessed with beauty and happiness beyond your imagination.

  6. Philip Anaya November 26, 2013 at 10:47 pm #

    Thinking about the LA River brings memories as I grew up in Reseda and the LA river was our destination for adventure, and exploration into the wonders of nature. I barely can remember the old river bed, but have strong memories of the rock and concrete version . Biking along the river could only occur if you could navigate down the rocky slope and more than once I had my share of raspberries from holding on to handlebars for too long. Once on the smooth concrete river bed, biking was easy and we would travel a few miles to the beginning of a more natural part of the river, no concrete, in the Sepulveda Dam Basin. Crawdads, frogs, fish and birds had plenty of habitat However the normal flow of 40 -50 CFS could swell into raging rain swollen stream of about 4000-5000cfs when the entire river bed was filled and even thought the dam held habitat together the River was pretty much washed out of most plants and animals. I suspect that there could be 1 billion dollars of EPA money and work flowing down stream into the Pacific Ocean.
    As far as LORP goes . What is needed from LA is better management. This past year has seen a late half measure Seasonal Habitat flow in June and then the unannounced release of Aqueduct Waters at the Alabama Gates for Aqueduct maintenance and the predictable monsoonal rainfall flooding the LORP killing fish and creating excessive habitat for mosquitoes causing pesticide fogging in Lone Pine and Independence to prevent West Nile Virus. All this going on as the recommendation for seasonal habitat flows from Earth Science Consultants went unheeded again no different from the previous 6 years of recommendations. The Owens lake is getting about 70,000 acre feet from the Aqueduct just south of Cottonwood. Why is it that the Lower Owens River has to be pumped back to the Aqueduct to be dispersed on the Lake . Why are not all these issues combined into a sustainable management with greater flows in the LORP that would be a vast improvement to the BIOTIC Community and for recreation and why is there a plan to put 1 million solar panels on the LORP project. We don’t need dollars as much as we need responsible, professional and foresighted DWP Management of the restoration of this river.


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