Sierra Club challenges LADWP’s ‘water grab’

Press release

LOS ANGELES: The Sierra Club has intervened in a lawsuit brought by Mono County, California against the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (LADWP), challenging LADWP’s decision to drastically reduce vital irrigation waters it has for decades delivered to important wetlands, meadows and rangelands in southern Mono County.

LADWP’s decision to dewater these lands abruptly changed 70 years of irrigation and management practices on 6,400 acres in Long Valley and Little Round Valley so that increased amounts of water may be exported from the Eastern Sierra to Los Angeles.

The agency’s decision was made in direct violation of a state law requiring a careful
analysis of its environmental and related impacts.

The results of LADWP’s devastating actions are already clearly visible. Anyone traveling Highway 395 near Crowley Lake passes thousands of acres of once-green wetland and meadow habitats that are now brown and dying. The drying landscape and the spread of flammable invasive weeds have increased the risk of wildfire, worrying both nearby communities as well as county officials.

Sierra Club and a diverse array of Eastern Sierra environmental, recreation and
agriculture organizations and stakeholders have repeatedly expressed concerns about the impacts of LADWP’s water reductions. Among them are significant threats to the bi-state sage grouse, a California species of special concern which relies on the wet meadows for successful brood rearing. LADWP’s poorly conceived action threatens 30 percent of the bi-state sage grouse’s entire remaining population, dramatically threatening the future survival of the species and making it more likely that the bi-state sage grouse will receive additional protections under the Endangered Species Act.

Sierra Club California Director Kathryn Phillips said, “The Sierra Club is eager to join
forces with Mono County to assure that the law is followed and the health and well-being of its landscapes and communities are protected. LADWP is offering a false
choice–protect the Eastern Sierra or harm rate payers in Los Angeles. We reject this
cynical tactic. Water conservation and other smart approaches are needed–drying up the Eastern Sierra will not fix LA’s water needs.”

Lynn Boulton, Sierra Club Range of Light Group Chair and Mono County resident, said, “Over and over we’ve heard LADWP say they care about the environment and economy of the Eastern Sierra, but their actions say otherwise. This water grab threatens all our local interests–ranching, environmental, recreation, tourism, community welfare and public safety. We will stand together to defend our water, our landscapes, our communities and our livelihoods.”

The Sierra Club is represented by Attorney Laurens H. Silver and the California
Environmental Law Project, a non-profit legal corporation.

Neither decision makers nor the public were provided critical information or the
opportunity to comment on potentially significant impacts before LADWP took action,
damaging biological resources in addition to the sage grouse and threatening
agriculture, recreation, and tourism businesses and related economies that depend on both the health and beauty of the region’s landscapes.

Under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA), public agencies, such as LADWP, are required to analyze and consider the potential environmental and related economic and social impacts of their actions prior to taking those actions.

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About the Sierra Club

The Sierra Club is America’s largest and most influential grassroots environmental
organization, with more than 3.5 million members and supporters. In addition to helping people from all backgrounds explore nature and our outdoor heritage, the Sierra Club works to promote clean energy, safeguard the health of our communities, protect wildlife, and preserve our remaining wild places through grassroots activism, public education, lobbying, and legal action. For more information, visit www.sierraclub.org.

 

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4 Responses to Sierra Club challenges LADWP’s ‘water grab’

  1. Tom Tuttle October 17, 2018 at 1:43 pm #

    How can it be a “water grab” when they own the land and the water rights? That’s like complaining that you neighbor won’t provide free water to you while he pays the bill.

     
  2. Johnny Smoke October 18, 2018 at 8:33 am #

    Cattle and cattle grazing are detrimental to sage grouse.

    As John Muir said about domestic sheep, cattle are another form of “hooved locusts.”

    I presume, therefore, that in this lawsuit the sanctimonious Sierra Club will advocate for elimination of both from Long Valley and Little Round Valley.

    And why does the Sierra Club think it is a bad thing that the grouse might receive “additional protections under the Endangered Species Act”?

    Strange days.

     
    • Charles O. Jones October 19, 2018 at 8:20 am #

      I agree with the opinion that LADWP failed to follow environmental laws with this sudden change of practices. I believe the courts will ultimately agree too. As far as the ESA, I can’t speak for the Sierra Club, but it certainly makes more sense to be proactive in protecting a species rather than allowing it to decline to a point requiring mandatory legal protections.

       
  3. Johnny Smoke October 19, 2018 at 1:30 pm #

    Perhaps, Mr. Jones.

    But if the sage grouse had been protected by the ESA – and thus subject to its “mandatory legal protections” – then LADWP could not have unilaterally de-watered the lands in question.

    Moreover, the much-heralded plan to prevent the grouse from being listed under the ESA did not require LADWP to continue to irrigate those lands.

    So, that flawed and politically-driven effort to prevent the listing has backfired and placed the grouse at risk.

    It will be interesting to watch the plaintiffs claim that the grouse will be endangered by the de-watering while simultaneously claiming that the grouse need not be protected by the ESA.

    This dilemma will likely provoke the Sierra Club to advocate a compromise for the sake of the grouse: the resumption of irrigation and the elimination of cattle ranching on LADWP’s lands.

     

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