DWP water chief reveals new, global dry lake proposal

LADWP Water Operations Director, Martin Adams

LADWP Water Operations Director, Martin Adams

A letter issued this week by the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power looked to some like a new, over-arching strategy by DWP to accomplish its Owens Dry Lake goals. What had been on the back burner now stands front and center – a Master Plan for the Owens Dry Lake but only if dust controls cost less money and use less water.

In his letter, DWP Water Operations Director Martin Adams laid out new details to push ahead with an Owens Lake Master Plan but with some Catch-22s. DWP wants guarantees of less dust control and less water use on the dry lake before spending the money for bird habitats and other items at the lake bed. This new and obvious quid pro quo gives LA a broader goal for opposing parties to consider.

The Master Plan group has no power over dust controls. That’s the exclusive bailiwick of the Air Pollution Control District, State Air Board and State Lands Commission – the parties LADWP is suing to stop their dust control requirements. Although Adams said he’s not “asking the Master Plan group to leverage anybody,” his letter and proposal does repeatedly pit bird habitat against dust control.

Asked about Adams’ letter, Air Pollution Control District Director Ted Schade said, “Any project DWP intends to undertake must comply with local, state and federal air quality requirements.” Said Schade, “The Master Plan process or any project does not supersede the Great Basin requirements and controls over air pollution.”

Adams made himself available to Sierra Wave Media for questions on his letter. With a relaxed and friendly manner, he said, “If we spend a half million dollars on habitat and recreation at the lake bed, we can’t afford to do that and do dust control.” Adams said, “For us to commit to the Master Plan, we need the ability to use other dust clean-up methods.” Adams said he would like to take “all everyone wants to see and put together a project. If we don’t have to spend another billion dollars on dust controls and can come up with more creative ways to control dust, then we can do the Master Plan project.”

Adams said he is not trying to bypass the Master Plan process that has gone on through meetings with as many as 40 agency and environmental group people over the last two years. His letter says that it may appear LADWP is “abandoning the master planning process or perhaps ‘running off’ with the work of the group. In fact,” he writes, “we are trying to be realistic and deliver a real project in our lifetime.”

Adams talks about transforming the Owens Lake with the use of a “Habitat Suitability Model” already developed by the Master Plan group. Adams said, “We’re pitching an overall solution.” The DWP idea still resorts to divide and conquer, although Adams sees it as the way it is. He said with more water use on the dry lake there has been less water spreading in the Owens Valley for ranchers. With less water down the aqueduct, LA has to buy more state water, he said. As for the Owens Lake dust, Adams said, “We believe we’ve mitigated our impacts.”

Audubon Society official, Andrea Jones, called LADWP’s plan to develop a project proposal that conserves water, saves habitat and uses the Master Plan process a “positive step” that the Audubon Society will review. The DWP letter is posted below:

Screen shot 2013-03-29 at 7.56.41 AMScreen shot 2013-03-29 at 7.56.51 AMScreen shot 2013-03-29 at 7.56.58 AM

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23 Responses to DWP water chief reveals new, global dry lake proposal

  1. Mike Prather, Lone Pine April 1, 2013 at 8:31 am #

    Audubon has been asking for a project proposal from LADWP for over a year in order to begin the CEQA process and ‘get the ball rolling’. We have worked with various parties in developing a habitat suitability model (HSM) that seeks to preserve the baseline habitat values at Owens Lake, the largest habitat area in Inyo County, and once one of the largest in California. The recent litigation involving some of the stakeholders at Owens Lake threatens to delay the beginning of work on wildlife habitat, water conservation and continued dust control. Until that legal battle is resolved much of the good work that all of us have done together may be placed on hold or jeopardized.

    Our position is that there is great value in continuing the Owens Lake Master Plan process at Owens Lake and that not doing so misses the chance of restoring a large heritage habitat. Audubon began the comprehensive look at planning for Owens Lake starting in 2007. We are committed to working for the benefit of wildlife and we will continue to do our best in that regard.

    Owens Lake is an Audubon Important Bird Area of national significance. The April 2012 Spring Big Day bird survey logged 75,000 birds on just that one day during migration. To see those numbers of birds is a true biological wonder seldom observed.

    • Philip Anaya April 1, 2013 at 12:21 pm #

      Must say that I really respect the work of the Audubon Society and it’s members. The dedication to the health of our planet is reflected in their interests in the World of Birds. Members of the Eastern Sierra Chapter are Leaders in influential and powerful organizations, groups and Governmental Regulatory Boards most notably the Cailfornia State Water Resources Board and also it’s regional Lahaton Water Resources Board. What are they thinking now?
      The litigation that Mr. Prather may be referring to, that of the LADWP and the Great Basin Air Polution Control District is certainly an area of most concern seemingly with the LADWP. I for one have another viewpoint.
      LADWP is not so concerned with the requirement of the need to finish the last 4-5 % of their dust mitigation at the Owens lake. They are also not concerned with providing habitat for birds.
      They are completely 100% concerned about the water that are now being utilized on the surface of the Lake that could have been flowing down the Aqueduct. The entire infrastructure of the Aqueduct, every truck, every pump, every ditch, every employee, every effort, every lie, every bit of the history past, present and into the future, every PR campaign to discredit anybody or anything including Ted Schade and the Great Basin APCD, water in the Aqueduct is the chief and foremost concern of the LADWP and Mr. Adams, it’s Water Operations Manager. It’s all about the water in the Aqueduct.
      Tomorrow Tuesday at 9:30 in the morning, at the meeting of the Inyo Board of Supervisiors, Mr. Adams will present the latest attempt of the LADWP to try to get more water into the Aqueduct and shape the future of the Owens Lake and the Owens Valley. Left behind all of this will be the lost efforts of the most important and knowledgeable Water and Environmental Professionals in the Eastern Sierra. Behind all this is the simple fact that the LADWP wants every drop of water,that they can take from the Eastern Sierra in the Aqueduct flowing south to Los Angeles and there is nothing in their history in the Owens Valley that indicates anything more important than that.
      The work and the product of the Owens Lake Master Plan process is vital to the future of the Owens Valley. The process is also important, maybe more so than the product. The work, the product, the knowledge and input of “ALL” the participants is far greater than that of a “FEW” of the participants. No one participant should be permitted to dictate to the benefit of it’s own interest. No one participant should be the bully in the room. The results and the work of such good and knowledgable folks should be the best results for the Owens Lake and Valley for it’s visitors, inhabitants and the environment whether they have 2 or 4 legs or stems even multiple wings or leaves. The dust controls need to be completed as soon as possible without any furthur litigation delays. The authority and regulation of these mitigation measures remain between the GBAPCD and the DWP and now unfortunately the Courts. This side show shenanagin shell game that is being presented tommorow by Mr. Adams should be recognized as such. The Owens Lake Master Plan Process should be continued and completed and if then in their collective wisdom if they support the one issue or the other then so be it. If the Owens Lake Master Plan Group would ever find it in the best interests of the Owens Valley to let the LADWP prevail and let the dust blow once again, then we all might just need to bail and let the LADWP have the entire place to themselves.

      • Waxlips April 2, 2013 at 7:45 am #

        True, true.

  2. MJA March 31, 2013 at 10:11 am #

    The only real solution for the dried up and dying Owens Valley and Lake is to dry up the LA Aqueduct and leave the water just be.


  3. BishopBeans March 30, 2013 at 8:03 am #

    Classic and transparent DWP move. A lame effort to alienate those that are interested in habitat values at Owens Lake against the efforts of air pollution control. If DWP can’t afford to both control more air pollution and dry up existing control areas to save water, then we will take more air pollution control.

  4. Snake Valley Disaster March 29, 2013 at 9:03 pm #

    Water project could wreck ecology of the Snake Valley (Just like Owens)

    This fragile area is known as the Snake Valley, ground zero in the fight between Utah and Nevada over plans to divert water from an underground aquifer through a 285-mile pipeline to Las Vegas. Because the aquifer extends into Utah, Gov. Gary Herbert is being asked to sign off on an agreement to divide the Snake Valley’s water between the two states.

    Gov. Herbert has said he plans to decide by April 1 whether to sign the agreement. You can let him know your opinion by calling (801) 538-1000.


  5. Durrell Coleman March 29, 2013 at 12:20 pm #

    It’s time to man up, Marty!
    Your beliefs are irrelevant.
    The Clean Air Act is NOT negotiable.
    No quarter!!

  6. Tim March 29, 2013 at 11:59 am #

    Philip, I love the pro-active solution.
    Anecdotal information;
    The thing that bothers me about my own water use is that I waste so much. How many of us have flushed tissue down the toilet? How long do we stand in the shower or leave the water running in the sink to wash dishes or brush teeth
    I noticed as I showered this morning (with the low flow device removed) that I do allot of standing around while the water runs. No one likes low flow; there just isn’t enough pressure to get the job done. I wondered if there was a better solution in my case. Remembering back to when I lived on a boat, I recalled turning the water off mid shower to soap up before turning it back on to rinse. I refuse to use a low flow head and do not know a soul who has left it in; I do not however refuse to shut the water off mid way to soap up.
    I think much of this discussion is about LA getting plenty of water to waste and not how much they need to live well. Water, dirt cheap and plenty of it.

    • Desert Tortoise March 29, 2013 at 8:36 pm #

      Water use per capita in Los Angeles is about half that in the Owens Valley. Their rate payers pay many times the cost per acre foot for water than Owens Valley residents do. Water from MWD is even more expensive, upwards of $1200 per acre foot. It is hard to listen to Owens Valley residents carp about the supposed waste of water in LA when quite the opposite is the case. Now go ahead and check you little boxes Dislike. There, feel better now?

      • Benett Kessler March 30, 2013 at 9:27 am #

        That’s not what most people carp about. They dislike the death of plants and trees in the Owens Valley due to groundwater pumping. They dislike the condescending, bullying attitude of most DWP officials and the manipulation of citizens to go against each other. LA should conserve water. They are, in reality, a desert greened up by Owens Valley water and water from the Colorado river and MWD. When you live in a desert, you have to pay the price for what you don’t have.

        Benett Kessler

      • Truth Seeker March 30, 2013 at 6:35 pm #

        Show us a link to your water “facts”. Be sure to include washing driveways, car washes, freeway irrication and most of all, glof courses and swimming pools.

        • Desert Tortoise April 1, 2013 at 5:05 am #


          At 185 gallons per capita per day LA County has the seventh lowest per capital water consumption in the state. By comparison, at 471 gallons per capita per day Mono County has the highest water consumption of any county in the state.

          Let this map of the state load so you can see an overlay of the counties and a color coding of water use per capita. You find that eastern California’s deserts and mountains are among the highest per capita water users in the state while the coastal urban areas that have water rationing, car washing restrictions and the like have the lowest per capita water use.


          LA added over 1 million residents since 1979 but the city’s overall water use is down to their 1979 level.

          • Benett Kessler April 1, 2013 at 8:23 am #

            **Update – part of the controversy was that the per capita figures in Inyo and Mono counted all water going through fish hatcheries here and attributed to individual citizens.

            As I recall, the per capita water use figures here were calculated by using part of the diverted water. I’ll look into that. It was an issue when
            Bill Kahrl did his water atlas. There’s more to the story than you know.

          • Philip Anaya April 1, 2013 at 12:53 pm #

            No doubt that the urban areas of California have instituted water conservation programs that are good and necessary.However, to make comparisons between Counties where there are such huge demographic differences is a question not needed by many when there is such an apparent effect on the environment in the Owens Valley. My well and many others are not metered and I wonder also about the usage data provide by the DWP in the Bishop Cone Audits. Everyone seems to have a dim view of the DWP and they have to deal with that just like we all deal with what they do. Thanks for the links to your information, DT. Interesting stuff

          • Desert Tortoise April 1, 2013 at 7:43 pm #

            Mr. Anaya, there is no mystery how the DWR calculates per capita water useage.


            Your water district provides DWR their data along with a plan to reduce water use.

          • Philip Anaya April 1, 2013 at 10:30 pm #

            DT, I have to admit that you have linked me to a very complicated and mysterious 66 page DWR urban water use methodology web site that is way beyond my paygrade and understanding. My own water district however is my own well in my own back yard with no meter and with no ability or interest to allow the DWR to know how much water I do or do not use. Your links are still interesting and I am always thankful to learn new stuff. Hope I can teach you a thing or two also, somewhere down the line

    • Alice Chan March 30, 2013 at 6:29 am #

      Tim, here’s what we do about warming up the water in the shower: we collect that water in buckets and keep it handy to recharge the toilet tank, thus using it to flush the toilet. We also, for what it’s worth, collect the water we use when washing produce before cooking, and use that for watering plants indoors and out. We never turn on the tap without considering whether or not that water can be used more than once.

      • Tim March 30, 2013 at 3:25 pm #

        Good for you Alice! I think saving water needs to happen evrywhere. FYI Tortoise, I am in LA.

  7. Philip Anaya March 29, 2013 at 10:21 am #

    Martin L. Adams,

    Dear Sir,
    As a lifelong ratepayer of the LADWP, as an observer and a student of the actions and history of the LADWP, I have an interest in helping “to direct the Owens Lake Dust Mitigation Program to a more positive beneficial outcome.” Immediately, stop wasting my dollars and the LADWP resources with lawyers and litigation! Complete the Project that is required and agreed to by you. You are not finished yet.
    Furthur, my interests for wildlife enhancements require you and the DWP to begin anew with a different philosophy of water export. A word that might be a good start would be “sustainable practices”. I am not referring to sustaining the political power shell game practices that the DWP has been so adept at , but rather the meaning of the word as it might be used to describe a “sustainable practice” of responsible stewardship of the Owens Valley environment. If you, the LADWP, could stop taking what you want and rather, learn to receive what nature will provide, in the long run there would be increased habitat and more water. If this type of ideal becomes fundamental to your (DWP) interests and participation in the Owens Lake Master Plan Process then the bird habitat and many other contentious issues in the Owens Valley could be more easily resolved, everything better into the next 100 years. Oh by the way ,when can we expect to see the beginnings of the required monitoring of the water table, vegetation depletion, etc. in the Bishop Cone. Anyway, thanks for your letter, your update and I look forward to more of your letters and inspired leadership at the DWP. Philip Anaya

  8. Tim March 29, 2013 at 8:55 am #

    The people of Snake Valley Nevada are threatened with water exportation now as we speak. Their situation is nearly identical to that of Owens Valley. I wonder how many people will loose their farms, business’ and families to the hardship this will bring. Why not check in on their blogs to share your Owens Valley experience?


  9. Waxlips March 29, 2013 at 8:39 am #

    Does anyone trust DWP?

    • SierraFan March 29, 2013 at 9:07 am #

      Not a chance! One thing you can count on here is that they’re in it for themselves and no one else.

      • Curious March 29, 2013 at 1:34 pm #

        “You can’t fault a person for trying to do what’s best for his or her business.”

        Funny, I don’t trust you either!


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