Letter to the editor: “Love ’em and leave ’em”

owens_dry_lake.jpgLove ’em and Leave ’em by Daniel Pritchett, Bishop

Los Angeles’ conquest of Owens Valley was famously compared to rape by Morrow Mayo in 1932. In 2006, LA Water and Power Commissioner Mary Nichols compared the Owens Valley-LA relationship to a troubled marriage. I suggest “seduction” is the best way to understand Owens Lake Master Plan negotiations. In 2010, DWP made a proposition to just about every environmental group, and county, state, federal, and tribal agency in the valley. Almost all yielded to DWP’s advances, enamored of “being at the table” and the MOU DWP promised to negotiate.

The first years were sheer bliss. Frequent meetings were held. Subcommittees were formed and working groups established! Meanwhile, DWP exploited the relationship shamelessly. It used the negotiations as a vehicle for diverting attention from its excessive groundwater pumping, short- changing ranchers their irrigation water, and other abuses of the Inyo-LA Long Term Water Agreement. Last fall DWP even used negotiations in its outrageous media attacks on Ted Schade and Great Basin Unified Air Pollution Control District.

Then, DWP’s ardor cooled. For an entire year, no Planning Committee meetings were held and DWP sued some of its negotiating partners. Now, it’s official — DWP has jilted them all. In a March 26, 2013 “Dear John” letter, DWP’s Marty Adams wrote that DWP intended to develop a management plan unilaterally. DWP needs some space; trying to please all those negotiating partners took too much out of it!

To soften the blow, Adams assured jilted negotiating parties that DWP still wanted to be friends, and would continue to support the negotiations’ questionable offspring, the “Habitat subcommittee.” This is because DWP is establishing a new wellfield near Owens Lake and wants the subcommittee to decide how much damage DWP can do and still call its pumping “sustainable.” Ignored by all parties is the fact that the Inyo County public, at DWP’s request, addressed this question of acceptable impacts back in 1999 and said, in effect, “no level of damage is acceptable.”

How will this soap opera end? Will habitat subcommittee members meet with DWP, thereby allowing DWP to greenwash its new pumping? Will jilted negotiating partners ever realize DWP’s interests are antithetical to their own and they have been used? Time will tell!

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13 Responses to Letter to the editor: “Love ’em and leave ’em”

  1. Tim April 1, 2013 at 10:34 am #

    -We need anchor threads on a popular blog where we can post the data and science, solicit creative solutions from educated and creative 395 travelers, and educate the public on the facts of the situation.
    Environmentalism, conservation, and sustainability are all very popular topics. The 17,000 people of the Owens Valley don’t have the political power to evoke change. We need to appeal to the pride and sensibility of the good people of Los Angeles. The political pressure to change policy will need to come from them. We need visible educational billboard signs, websites, and social networking links posted on 395.

    You can start now for free by going to the Yelp site to rate LADWP,
    Here is the link.

    DWP has a two star rating right now, their customers don’t even appear to benefit from the destruction of the Owens Valley ecosystem. The city is the beneficiary, not the people.
    Los Angeles has destroyed an ecosystem at the expense of the world’s health. It’s time to exercise due diligence in making repairs. Let’s find ways to turn up the social pressure.

  2. Tim March 30, 2013 at 8:48 pm #

    Don’t give up.
    I think education is the answer. Two and a half million people travel 395 annually to visit Yosemite, Whitney, Bishop, Mammoth, and other valley attractions. Why isn’t there an educational website advertised through radio and billboards to capture their attention. Many of those LADWP customers who travel the valley are oblivious to the facts.
    -Owens Lake was full pre aqueduct.
    -Owens valley provides nearly half of LA’s water.
    -Water tables are dangerously low.
    -Snow pack has and continues to decrease.
    -Sustainable practices need to be adopted to insure water for the future.
    Pressure needs to come from within.

    • Jeremiah's ego April 1, 2013 at 9:43 am #

      Nice Job Tim! Good delivery, for me it’s hard not to assume people as arrogant or ignorant to not see the urgency in understanding what we are doing to our MotherEarth!
      Your right, education outreach is a answer, But how do you get past the fundamentalists fear of social change?

  3. Tim March 30, 2013 at 8:31 pm #

    More negative effects of over-pumping.
    The overburden sediments that cover buried cavities in the aquifer systems are delicately balanced by ground-water fluid pressure. The water below ground is actually helping to keep the surface soil in place. Groundwater pumping for urban water supply and for irrigation can produce new sinkholes In sinkhole-prone areas. If pumping results in a lowering of groundwater levels, then underground structural failure, and thus, sinkholes, can occur.

  4. Ken Warner March 30, 2013 at 8:14 pm #

    I have the “Thee Stages of Truth” on my wall at all times. A worthy bit of philosophy.

    RE: Rapid Global Climate Change and water. The debate is over. RGCC is real and it’s expanding the Southwestern desert Northward. The drought in the West is expanding and there’s just too many people for the available water use patterns. If — somehow — the population didn’t grow any further and water use patterns became more in tune with reality — everyone shouldn’t have a lawn and a swimming pool — then the Owen’s Valley might survive. Fat chance….

    RE: LADWP Calling King Kong a dirty ape as it bites your head off isn’t really effective regardless of how good it makes you feel.

  5. Tim March 30, 2013 at 8:08 pm #

    Examples of Innovative Approaches that Contribute to Ground-Water Sustainability.
    This is a very interesting article from USGS featuring municipalities that have recharged their groundwater, some as early as the 1930’s!
    Many of these areas rely solely on ground water so sustainability is very important to them.
    Many of them redistribute grey and recycled water to farmlands and LAKES for reabsorption into the aquifer! Others pump water directly into the aquifer during times of reduced demand.
    Source article:

  6. Philip Anaya March 30, 2013 at 7:56 pm #

    Shenanigans. The Irish etymology of the word is Sionnachuighim meaning “I play the fox.”
    The obvious admitted truth of the DWP playing shell game shenanigans in it’s dealings with the stake holders of the Owens Lake Master Plan ,trying to buy off and work one group against the other cannot be allowed to happen in the light of day nor in the deepest darkest hours of the night. The mitigation responsibilities of the DWP to finish and maintain the required air pollution controls on Owens Lake is a precussor to the issues of the “Master Plan” for the Lake.
    #1. The Owens Lake no longer pollutes the air . #2. Then we can agree on a Master Plan for the Lake. #3. If that means a new well field, (I’d like to know more about that) then along with #1 being completed how about DWP having all it’s other well fields in compliance to the Water Agreement before they are given approval to apply their expertise of sucking another well field dry.
    I am hoping that the Inyo County Board of Supervisiors, the Water Department, the Owens Valley Committee, the Audubon Society , the Piute Nation and everyone else who was part of the 31 member group find ways to come together and let Mr. Adams and the LADWP know without any doubt that their type of shenanigans,communications and interactions will not be tolerated.
    It is time for an emergency meeting of the Owens Lake Master Planning Group to consider a unified response to the DWP. It is time to come together as a community and demand at the very least, a respectful process and communication that is worthy of the investment of each individual’s time and expertise. If the DWP does not want to engage in a communication and a honest process and resorts to bully tactics outside that process, then folks need to unite and publically come together and not be compromised and a party to this most reprehensible type of a power play.
    The Urban Dictionary defines: Calling Shenanigans, “To declare that another’s words or behavior is full of s__t, off topic, passive aggressively annonying etc. That’s a definiton that fits DWP to a tee.

  7. Tim March 30, 2013 at 7:52 pm #

    The results of over pumping are disastrous, look at this USGS link about land subsidence.
    It is truly amazing.

    From the USGS Groundwater site.

    Excessive pumping can overdraw the groundwater “bank account”
    The water stored in the ground can be compared to money kept in a bank account. If you withdraw money at a faster rate than you deposit new money you will eventually start having account-supply problems. Pumping water out of the ground faster than it is replenished over the long-term causes similar problems. The volume of groundwater in storage is decreasing in many areas of the United States in response to pumping. Groundwater depletion is primarily caused by sustained groundwater pumping. Some of the negative effects of groundwater depletion:
    • drying up of wells
    • reduction of water in streams and lakes
    • deterioration of water quality
    • increased pumping costs
    • land subsidence
    • salt water intrusion

  8. Tim March 30, 2013 at 6:02 pm #

    If you change the word “water” in your piece into “drugs” or “alcohol” it rings of a typical addict or alcoholic story. It looks to me like LA’s water problem is already unsustainable and they are acting like drug addicted people who just can’t slow their consumption. I really feel they are at the tipping point and that when all the housing that was built in the last real estate bubble gets occupied their consumption will outpace available maximum supply.
    Just last week I had a discussion with a hydrologist on this blog who said there is no coloration between earth cooling surface water and snow production. When I think that just 50 years ago the valley that would typically get three feet of snow a year now gets inches, it is obvious that there is a serious problem. Clearly three feet of snow on the valley floor would sustain snow pack at high elevation for longer periods. In alcohol addiction they call it denial; the inability to admit to ones self that there is a problem. The Owens valley is but one incident; EVERY CITY captures and diverts water, water that would otherwise cool the earth’s surface while compounding evaporation and orographic phenomenon. I don’t think we have warmed the globe as much as we have removed the coolant. Thank you for your work.

    All truth passes through three stages. First, it is ridiculed. Second, it is violently opposed. Third, it is accepted as being self-evident.

    Arthur Schopenhauer, German philosopher (1788 – 1860)

    • Big AL March 30, 2013 at 9:31 pm #

      Good points Tim. Tim isn’t so that in order to attract water, you have to have water on the ground, as in bodies of water. Case in point, Mono county, has a much higher rate of precipitation than Inyo county, pretty much being the county line as a dividing point for this.

      Bodies of water within the valley tend to attract or produce precip. from the clouds. Such as Topaz Lake, Crowley Lake, and various other bodies of water in Mono County. Inyo has onl a few small bodies of water and with the absence of Owens Lake, we usually do not get the precip. that Mono does.

      • Tim March 31, 2013 at 10:29 am #

        Big Al, I have a busy day and will address this later with links and citations.

        • Tim April 1, 2013 at 10:07 am #

          Big Al, To answer this question we would need to look at year over year rain and snow tables for Mono staring in 1913 and compare them to Inyo. It is a big job, does someone out there have time to do it?

  9. Water Boy March 30, 2013 at 5:59 pm #

    WOW! Excellent letter.

    LADWP is simply a might makes right, on going criminal enterprise, and seems to me qualifies for the Rico Act.


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