LADWP to file second suit against Mammoth Community Water District


Officials at LADWP headquarters hired a major law firm to get Mammoth's water.

In its tradition of bullying small towns to grab their water, the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power’s latest victim is Mammoth Lakes and its water district.  LA filed suit to claim that all of Mammoth Creek water belongs to the City of LA, not Mammoth Community Water District.  Without the creek, the Town could not survive. Now, the water district manager says LA will launch a second legal attack – this time, on the Town’s Urban Water Management Plan.

As drought looms statewide, LADWP has hired a high-powered environmental law firm to do battle in lawsuits related to the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA).  Last month, LA filed a legal challenge to Mammoth Community Water District’s Environmental Impact Report on Mammoth Creek fishery flows.  LA’s argument?  They own all of Mammoth Creek water, so Mammoth has no right to determine fishery flows.

Mammoth has learned that LADWP will pay $450,000 to Meyers-Nave, a mega law firm that deals with CEQA suits.  This firm will fight Mammoth. Greg Norby, manager of the water district, said that LA has indicated to Mammoth Community Water District that the City will file a second lawsuit this week.  The suit will challenge the District’s 2010 Urban Water Management Plan, a state-mandated document.  Manager Norby said the plan is a supply and demand analysis through build-out of Mammoth which relies on Mammoth Creek water rights.  LADWP claims the City owns those rights so the plan is not legal.

Norby disagrees and said Mammoth began using Mammoth Creek water in 1947 and continued to establish rights through the State over the years.  LA never challenged those rights until now.  On top of the threat of a second suit, LADWP lawyers have hit the Water District with two major public records requests which have tied up many staff and legal team resources.  Norby said LA apparently wants to make Mammoth ineligible for state grants by invaliding the Water Management Plan.  This could result in a $100,000 loss.

When asked to comment on LADWP’s attack on the main source of water for Mammoth Lakes and its famous ski area, attorney Amrit Kulkarni declined to comment.  LA and MCWD will meet in a mandatory settlement conference February 21st at the offices of Mammoth’s attorney in Sacramento.

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31 Responses to LADWP to file second suit against Mammoth Community Water District

  1. Trouble February 16, 2012 at 6:37 am #

    There is clearly one to many JJ’s here. Since I don’t agree with much the other JJ has to say, my new name will be Trouble.

    • Big AL February 16, 2012 at 10:13 am #

      Yeah trouble, I guess that can be a problem, that explains why sometime, I see good post from JJ and then others totally a crock. It seems, that maybe moderation can fix that problem in the future by insuring names and alias’ can’t be duplicated in such a way.

  2. JJ February 15, 2012 at 8:58 pm #

    If DWP owns the water right, then it is their property and they should be compensated for its use by the Town of Mammoth. I’m surprised to see the mcwd manager comment on this page, I would have assumed that his attorney would have advised silence during pending litigation.

    • Benett Kessler February 15, 2012 at 11:14 pm #


      The dispute is over who does own the water rights. The Town of Mammoth claims the rights by use and state documentation. LA has come forward
      to claim the rights as well. We don’t know, yet, how all of this will unfold. The Water District Manager shared important public information
      on water sources in the community. He did not discuss litigation.
      Benett Kessler

      • Trouble February 16, 2012 at 6:56 am #

        Bennett, I luv the way you started out this article. Your first sentence I believe is a fair way to describe DWP’s actions and behavior over the years. It is clearly a bold statement. I hope the courts recognize it.

    • Big AL February 16, 2012 at 12:23 am #

      What did he say wrong JJ? What did he divulge? In my point of view, your track record on these posts seems to just sling mud. Just saying.

  3. sierragrl February 15, 2012 at 7:39 pm #

    While I thank Sierra Wave for being a LADWP watchdog, I have a problem with the ‘looming drought’ comment….One low year should not a drought make! These days it seems anything below average gets the drought card played, even though, obviously, half the years have to be below average, otherwise average wouldn’t be average! After the massive rainfall year of last year, we shouldn’t see or hear the drought word until we’ve had at least two significantly below average years! That said, water rights law is the most confounding thing I’ve had to deal with, MCWD should not take this lightly!

  4. Jon February 15, 2012 at 1:02 pm #

    Of course LADWP wants the water; whether it has been diligent enough keeping up its alleged water rights to get that water is the question. This could be an interesting water lawsuit, since it seems to pit the two primary tenents of Wester Water Law against each other.

    In California and the West, the first rule of water law is, “first in time, first in line.” Meaning, the first person or entitiy to file for water rights gets them. Thus, a water right granted in 1887, is “senior,” and takes precedent over one filed in 1888 for the same water. DWP claims it filed water rights on all the Owens River tributaries in 1905, well before there was a Town of Mammoth Lakes, and even before there was even much of anything in what is now Mammoth. LADWP also claims it has additional Senior water rights from the subsequent purhases of ranches and their senior water rights, which go with the land.

    However, the second primary tenent of Western water law is “use it or lose it.” Meaning even if someone has a senior water right, if they do not consistently “prove” that they use the water, others with “junior rights” can file for that water right. Thus, a rancher with an “old” or senior water right from 1900 who stops using the water for irrigation and lets the water run down the ditch to his neighbor with “junior” rights, for example, can see that water right transferred by the courts to the Junior Water Right holder who is actually using the water.

    So the question becomes: When Mammoth Lakes started taking and “using” what LADWP is claiming is its water, did LADWP protest that move in court? Did LADWP claim that was an illegal “taking” of its water rights? If not, then Mammoth probably has a pretty good case that it was “using” the water LADWP was not “using,” thus it has earned the right to obtain the rights to the water it has used historically.

    In any case, Mammoth better get a good attorney on board, regardless of the cost, and try to a quick legal settlement that grants it a permanant, ajudicated water right that has the weight of the courts, not just state agencies, behind it.

  5. Michael J Ahles February 15, 2012 at 9:59 am #

    Water Right

    I think it only natural that all life have an equitable right to the water we live and drink. And that One life believes they have a greater right than another, would be unnatural, untrue, or unjust at best.
    One is truly All,


  6. STEVEN February 15, 2012 at 8:13 am #

    Mark my words. Bad carma will come to that City. Just like it did here.

  7. Roy February 14, 2012 at 9:48 pm #

    I’m convinced the DWP is doing everything they can to destroy and ruin the communities in Inyo and Mono County. No one will ever convince me that the DWP really cares about the Eastern Sierras, all they want is the water…..

    • Big AL February 16, 2012 at 12:10 am #

      It’s all about the water, yes. About destroying the valley’s community, towns, cities, no I don’t think they really put that much thought into that part, they probably know if they drain the water, they get money, if the community dries up here, more water down the tube to LA.
      some say, if the department wasn’t here, this area would have been a wall to wall mini LA. That might be, might not.
      Some say, if they were not here there would be more water, more green, that is a fact. This valley would be almost a paradise.
      For those who love the that the population is kept to a minimum because of the DWP’s holdings, that is a fact, that and the other major land holder being the federal Govt. Population will remain low.
      The minus that goes with that, is that the economy is stifled as well. Towns are unable to expand and grow, business is limited to small portions of land to develop. For those who would love to develop and exploit the area, that can’t happen, I think that is some what of a mixed bag, of blessings and hindrance.
      So yeah .. a few different views on the DWP’s presence in the eastern Sierra. Oh yeah, and it is nice, you can go anywhere on the DWP land, pretty much do what you want, within reason. Try that on federal land. I’m not defending them, just pointing out another view on it.
      I think it’s a shame of the greatest magnitude that they drain the water from this area to feed the water hungry populous of LA. That this beautiful valley is withering away for it.
      But I also see it their presence was not here, how would it look? What would the quality of life here be by now with progression of population and industry?
      I say valley, because the valley is suffering more than other areas of the eastern sierra, Mammoth is just now feeling the pinch in a hard way by, having to fight them for water.
      The greed goes on. You’re right Rob, they don’t care about the valley. They do .. care about water.

      • Big AL February 16, 2012 at 12:44 am #

        I meant Roy, not Rob.

      • OV5G March 5, 2012 at 3:03 pm #

        You can camp on much of the federal lands that surround us, not the case on DWP land.

    • Reality Bites February 16, 2012 at 10:25 am #

      “Whiskey is for drinking and water is for fighting over” Mark Twain

  8. Reality Bites February 14, 2012 at 8:29 pm #

    Willam Mullholland’s DNA still runs deep in LADWP. Remember what Mullholland said about the Ownens Valley water; “There it is. Take it!”

  9. JJ February 14, 2012 at 6:22 pm #

    DWP’s new slogan: Hit them when their down. It only took them 50 plus years to file this lawsuit. I believe I only have 2 years to file a civil lawsuit. What the heck?

  10. Eastern Sierra local February 14, 2012 at 5:01 pm #

    So while Mammoth is “down” (with the MLLA $30 million judgement) LADWP comes in for the kill…..more proof that the City of LA doesn’t care about the fragile tourist based economy in the Eastern Sierra.

    • Big AL February 14, 2012 at 8:05 pm #

      No Sierra local, it has nothing to do with tourism and the money made off of the tourist here, or that tourists come here to recreate.
      It has to do with the LADWP wanting money for some sort of breech of contract or similar disagreement.

      • Benett Kessler February 15, 2012 at 9:22 am #

        Not sure what you’re saying here. LADWP wants the water.

        • P&B February 15, 2012 at 4:07 pm #

          At $650.00 per acre foot rate charged to it’s customers – ALL LADWP is concerned about is the money they will make….and right now Mammoth is in the way. Same ol, same and dance.

        • Big AL February 15, 2012 at 11:31 pm #

          Well yeah Benett, ok, but my point is, it has nothing to do with DWP wanting to hurt business here, as much as it is, their greed for the water, as you say. And ML wants the water too.
          So .. hense the disagreement. Maybe not a breech of contract then. maybe an agreement, that was not kept in good faith now on the Dept’s behalf?

  11. Ken Warner February 14, 2012 at 4:26 pm #

    Maybe LADWP’s lawsuits and the MLLA forced bankruptcy will finally squeeze the carpet baggers out of town. And fair thee well….

    • kaat February 15, 2012 at 12:55 pm #

      Ken- a bad outcome with this could squeeze ALL OF US out of town !!!

      ….and Mammoth will just become a suburb of LA and/or it’s personal City Hall in which it’s rich politicians will live and play ….

      …what an awful thought…..

      Mammoth FIGHT this thing!

      • Ken Warner February 15, 2012 at 1:33 pm #

        Nonsense. Mammoth Lakes gets all of it’s tap water from wells — not from Mammoth Creek. Snowcreek Golf Course diverts some water from Mammoth Creek. There might be other issues.

        But our water — as far as I know — comes from legal wells tapping ground water.

        Here’s a thought that a friend of mine suggested — LADWP has been the greatest gift to the Owens Valley. If it had not been for the LADWP, the Owens Valley would look like the San Fernando Valley does today. The San Fernando Valley grew on Owens Valley water.

        • Benett Kessler February 15, 2012 at 3:42 pm #

          MCWD’s manager said that Mammoth Creek supplies most of the Town’s water and is the “only reliable source of water”.

        • Benett Kessler February 15, 2012 at 3:46 pm #

          MCWD’s manager said that Mammoth Creek is the major source of water for the town and the only “reliable source”. Groundwater is a small part of the Town’s supply.
          Benett Kessler

          • Ken Warner February 15, 2012 at 5:17 pm #

            Ok, I did a little research (like I should have done first) and this EIR describes MCWD’s source as Lake Mary with permits to divert 2760 acre feet per year. So I don’t understand LADWP’s assertion that all of Mammoth Creek water is theirs.


            There is also a system of ground water wells, I don’t know what percentage of our local water comes from each source.

        • Rob February 15, 2012 at 4:05 pm #

          That is the bright side to DWP Ken. And if you’re lucky enough to land a job with them that allows you to live in the Eastern Sierra it’s that much better.

        • greg norby February 15, 2012 at 4:18 pm #

          Ken- Mammoth Lakes has averaged about 50% surface water use over the past 5 years. Prior to 1990, MCWD had no groundwater wells, and relied 100% on Mammoth Creek surface water under its state water rights. Since 1990, the District has deveoped 9 production wells, which supplement the Mammoth Creek water supply. Please see the District website for detailed reports on our past and future water supply mix, which now also included recycled water for irrigation.


          • Ken Warner February 15, 2012 at 6:30 pm #

            Thanks for that Greg. I take the water supply for granted. I shouldn’t.


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