Mono County sues LA, DWP over water irrigation

Mono County news release

Mammoth Lakes, Calif. (August 17, 2018) – On Wednesday, Mono County filed litigation challenging the decision of the City of Los Angeles and its Department of Water and Power (LADWP) to dry out 6,400 acres of wetlands, meadows and pastures in Long and Little Round Valleys in order to export additional water from California’s Eastern Sierra.

Mono Supervisor Stacy Corless

The lands in question have been irrigated for more than 100 years and provide important habitat for wildlife, including the bi-state-sage grouse, a California bird species of special concern currently being considered for listing under the Endangered Species Act.

The results of LADWP’s devastating action are visible to anyone traveling along
Highway 395 near Crowley Lake, and the scenic vistas cherished by visitors from Los
Angeles and around the world could be forever altered. Thousands of acres of wetland and meadow habitat are already brown and dry. With wildfires raging around the state, the removal of water and encroachment of highly flammable invasive plant species has state and county officials worried.

According to the Secretary of the California Natural Resources Agency, John Laird,
LADWP’s actions in southern Mono County “have significant consequences to wildlife by destroying wetlands and riparian areas and eliminating habitat for sensitive species such as the bi-state sage grouse” and “also significantly increase the risk of wildfires, which would threaten nearby communities.”

The county’s lawsuit alleges that LADWP failed to comply with the requirements of the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) and seeks “a determination from the Court that LADWP’s decision/action to significantly reduce water deliveries to approximately 6,400 acres of land in the County of Mono, modify more than seventy years of land management practices on those lands and thereby increase water export from Mono County is invalid and void and fails to satisfy the requirements of CEQA and the CEQA Guidelines.”

CEQA requires public agencies, such as LADWP, to analyze and consider the potential environmental impacts of their actions prior to taking those actions.

The county’s lawsuit further alleges that “prior to approving the additional water export and changing its historic land management practices, LADWP did not conduct any environmental review under CEQA. Thus, neither the public nor decisionmakers were provided information regarding the potentially significant impacts that such action may have on biological resources such as the bi-state sage grouse, visual/aesthetic resources, wetlands, and public safety.”

At its August 7 meeting, the Mono County Board of Supervisors heard more than three and a half hours of comment from residents of the Eastern Sierra and visitors from southern California, environmental groups, state and federal regulators, and ranchers whose livelihoods are threatened, all expressing concerns about the impacts of LADWP’s water reductions.

The Mono Lake Committee, Sierra Club, Friends of the Inyo, Eastern Sierra Land Trust, and even an ex-LADWP employee cited concerns ranging from threats to the bi-state sage grouse, a California species of special concern which relies on the wet meadows for successful brood rearing, to impacts on climate change resulting from meadow and wetland loss and from the intrusion of invasive plant species to an increased risk of catastrophic wildfire.

Following the conclusion of public comment, the Supervisors voted unanimously to
initiate litigation.

“I’m disappointed in the City of Los Angeles,” explained Supervisor Fred Stump. “But our backs are against the wall, the environment is against the wall, the sage grouse is against the wall, and there’s nothing else left to do.”

Litigation was not the County’s first choice. “We are willing to compromise. We all
recognize that climate change impacts have to be mitigated. What we’re asking for is
reasonable and it’s better for the ratepayers in LA,” explained Supervisor Stacy Corless, who noted that litigation and court-ordered environmental mitigation along the Owens River watershed have cost the LA ratepayers billions of dollars over the years.

“Good policy analysis is determined by the actions taken by public agencies and not the pretty words they put on their websites or in their publications” said Mono County Board Chair Bob Gardner. “I hope that we see some corporate responsibility and good neighbor relations from the City of Los Angeles.”

“Let’s do the right thing right now,” Gardner urged.

About Mono County:

Set on the eastern slopes of California’s Sierra Nevada mountains, Mono County is a rare environment of natural contrasts and open spaces with only 14,000 residents and a tourism- and agriculture-based economy.

Soaring granite peaks and spacious desert vistas, bubbling hot springs and cold
mountain streams, winter snows and sunny summer skies, rolling sagebrush hills and
vibrant wildflower meadows. “Mono” in Paiute means “beautiful,” which aptly describes this scenic wonderland that stretches 108 miles in length from the Alpine County border in the north to the Inyo County border in the south.

Originally formed on April 24, 1861, Mono County includes the Town of Mammoth Lakes, the northern area communities of Coleville, Topaz, and Walker, and the southern area communities of Crowley Lake, Benton, Chalfant, June Lake, Lee Vining, and Mono City.

More than 90% (approximately 3000 square miles) of Mono County consists of federal or state public lands visited by over 4 million people each year. The City of Los Angeles owns about 100 square miles and just 6% of the County’s total lands are in private ownership.

For more information, maps of the affected areas, comment letters on the issue and a  copy of the County’s Petition for Writ of Mandate against the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power, please visit:


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37 Responses to Mono County sues LA, DWP over water irrigation

  1. DESCO August 21, 2018 at 4:47 pm #

    Santa Barbara just reopened thier plant thanks to a ten million grant from DWP.

    • Trouble August 22, 2018 at 9:09 am #

      Desco, your article leaves out the fact that many places our running their plants off of solar power. Which DWP is more then happy to resell for us at a profit.

  2. David Dennison August 21, 2018 at 4:05 pm #

    Trouble,I think your getting the “trump syndrome”…to where EVERYTHING is a lawsuit….the land and water is owned by LADWP….not to mention LADWP, a multi-multi billion dollar enterprise…anytype of County lawsuit will only cost US,the County residents, for something they/us wouldn’t be able to win….IMO….

    • Trouble August 22, 2018 at 8:51 am #

      I’m not a fan of law suits , but if you two think it’s a bad idea, I’m probably right. P.S. you really shouldn’t blame a Californian for Trump.

      • David Dennison August 22, 2018 at 4:46 pm #

        Besides L.A. County and up by Frisco,it seems there ARE a lot of trump worshipers in California,at least here in the Owens Valley…actually,a couple of them are good friends of mine…but then,a few of them not so much….them ones, the usual big mouth,a couple in town that nobody likes or cares for much,and one of them,the biggest stupid mouth of them all,kinda funny,he talks about “gun rights” and the second Amendment,but he’s a convicted *** offender,a felon that can’t legally get near a firearm or ammo..

  3. Trouble August 21, 2018 at 1:12 pm #

    Every time I read about LADWP stunts it amazes me and makes me wonder, why doesn’t Inyo and Mono county sue Los Angels to force them to build Desalination Plaints? That’s the real answer to me.

    • Tom Tuttle August 22, 2018 at 5:23 am #

      Trouble: Probably because it would be a frivolous law suit. No court can make LADWP build Desalination plant just because you think that is “the answer”. Just like nobody can force you do build anything on your legally owned property. If anything, Inyo county and the city in the county should buy their own land and tap in to the ground water on their lands so they could have enough water for themselves. But as usual, they all feel entitled and want everything for free..

      Besides if and when LADWP builds Desalination plants, they will still own the land and water rights in the Owens valley and do what ever they want with it as long as it is legal. Currently, diverting the water they they have the rights to on the land they is not illegal. Get over it, the land and the water rights are legally owned and there is nothing you can do about.

  4. Tom Tuttle August 20, 2018 at 8:45 am #

    “Thousands of acres of wetland and meadow habitat are already brown and dry”

    I wonder if the county will go after and harass all other property owners because their lawns and land are “brown and dry”?

  5. David Dennison August 20, 2018 at 7:07 am #

    Mono Person…what do you suggest for the THOUSANDS of homeless in L.A….along with and including the drug and/or alcohol problem that usually goes along with it ?…and it’s not just in L.A,it’s nationwide in the big cities and the not so big cities…it’s just ANOTHER big problem in America now with no solution and with the present administration,no solution in sight.

    • Tinner August 20, 2018 at 6:33 pm #

      David Dennison aka Low-Inyo, are you aware how much drugs enter the U.S. through the Mexican border?
      While building a wall won’t eliminate all drugs entering the US from Mexico it will cause the Mexican cartels to change their method of getting their drugs into our country.
      Trump 2020, baby.
      Not because Trump is the greatest thing since sliced bread but because who else is there on either side of the aisle? Answer: NOBODY.

      • David Dennison August 21, 2018 at 12:51 pm #

        Tinner…..and how is that “wall” going…you know,the one Mexico is going to pay for ?…the only thing trump is doing,as far as the illegal immigration issue goes,he’s “ordering ” his hench-men to send a message to those trying to cross the border,if they do and get caught,they get their children separated form their parents,and by the way it looks,permanently separated,since the Government losses track of where and who the parents are,and where the children are being caged….fear tactics,bullying,kinda like I was watching on T.V. yesterday,a 3 hour special on how Nazi Germany started getting their foot-hold on things in the early 1930’s..trump could give a rat’s ass about drugs coming across the’s all about “making America white again “…as far as your trump comment there at the end,maybe true…but saying that,all it does is make us American’s see why our Country has become the laughing-stock of the world,if trump is all we got that’s out there…now you’ll have to excuse me,I’ve got some paperwork to fill out,trying to see if I’m not too old to volunteer for trump’s SPACE FORCE…….

        • Tinner August 21, 2018 at 3:31 pm #

          Low-Inyo, if you thought paying for the wall meant Mexico handing the US a check you
          and SO MANY others are thinking and living in a box, a box of hate for some. And until you can see outside that box there is nothing that can be said to convince you otherwise.

          As far as separating children from their parents, the only people responsible for that are the parents themselves, nobody else.

          As I write this I am learning of the discovery of Mollie Tibbetts, a 20-year-old Iowa college student, her body was found and an ILLEGAL ALIEN has confessed to stalking her but then “blacked out.


          • David Dennison August 22, 2018 at 6:52 am #

            Tinner….as you wrote your comment there,and as I’m writing mine and you reading it,there were probably 10-20 people,maybe more murdered across the United States….killed by white,legal citizens…and as far as who’s paying for trump’s invisible “wall”,you and all the trump worshipers know when he was screaming “and who’s going to pay for it ? ” during his campaign,what turned his worshipers on about that was them thinking and hoping strong-arm tactics would be used on Mexico,not anytype of peaceful “negotiations”…not anytype of “tariffs”,because when tariffs are placed on other Countries,we’re all seeing the American citizens are the ones that will pay for that,since the other Countries give them right back at us.You mention “build the wall,trump2020”,etc…you know,I know,we all know by 2020,there will be no wall,crime will still be running ramped across the United States,people will still be coming into America illegally,there will be no “trump SPACE FORCE !!! (pew!,pew!) “..just more daily trump lies, daily trump laughs,and more white house reality-show drama, starring donald trump coming in the next 16 months or so…

          • Sir Walter Really August 23, 2018 at 11:13 am #

            Tinner –

            And a native-born “citizen” in Colorado just strangled his wife, unborn baby, and his two children.

            Citizens commit way more crimes per capita than the undocumented.

            Including hiring the undocumented – such as the suspect in Ms. Tibbett’s tragic death – in violation of federal law.

            You can look it up.

          • Tinner August 23, 2018 at 6:43 pm #

            SWR, so.
            I guess 35,000 illegals, which is how many DHS reported being incarcerated, isn’t that bad, right?
            We have enough criminals, why should we accept more?

          • Charles O. Jones August 24, 2018 at 3:12 pm #

            Question Tinner,
            If you were born into a country with very little gainful employment opportunities, severe gang violence, government corruption, a pitiful education system, etc. and no prospects for a better future, what would you do? Would you just stay there? Personally I’d take the risks for a better life by going to where the better jobs are. Fortunately you and I weren’t born into that situation and don’t have to face that question in real life.

            Granted, crossing the border without proper documentation is a crime. But for the overwhelming majority of these folks, that’s the only crime they will commit. And the crime is a misdemeanor, which certainly doesn’t justify the separation of children from their parents for weeks or months on end.

            Now I agree, we do have an immigration problem in this country. Yet why is it we hear virtually all of the blame for that problem being placed on the workers? Every illegal worker has an employer that’s illegally hired them. Those employers are every bit as “illegal” as the workers are. The difference is those employers are often well connected in their communities. It’s just easier to blame the foreign workers than it is to blame your family, your friends, or your neighbors who might be hiring them. And don’t try to pretend that all these employers are unaware of what they’re doing, I know better than that from many personal experiences. While there may one here or there who gets tricked, most know exactly who they’re hiring. Like a contractor acquaintance who admits his entire crew is undocumented. He says he pays them the same as the local guys but they work harder and complain less. And he’s a Trumper. Go figure.

            If our government did a better job of holding the illegal employers accountable there would be far fewer of them willing to provide jobs to undocumented workers. If the jobs disappear, our immigration problems would take care of themselves for the most part. And it would much more practical and more effective than a 70 billion dollar vanity wall.

          • David Dennison August 25, 2018 at 12:57 pm #

            Tinner….Since election day,I’m betting there are WELL over 35,000 trump worshipers sitting in jail or prison right now….and more to come, right out of his own sleazy,lying administration of “only the good people” he hired back in 2016.

          • Tinner August 25, 2018 at 8:49 pm #

            COJ, my family was born in a country like that, they immigrated to America legally. I fully understand why people who were born and living in that environment would want a better life. But the first thing I would do is start the lengthy process to enter the America legally another thing I may do is NOT reproduce and drag a baby across a desert or stuffed in the trunk of a car which could be considered child abuse or child endangerment in America.
            As sad as it is we can’t save everybody living in a country that you mentioned, we can’t , there’s no way in hell. Where do we draw the line? We are already, what, 20 TRILLION dollars in debt? They take a lot more than what they give to this country. Just because somebody CAN enter illegally doesn’t mean should allow them to. We have an broken immigration system, every president in the last two decades or so has admitted this, both dem and repub, only Trump has been the only one to really do something about it.
            I don’t think we will ever agree on this issue just like David Dennison aka Low-Inyo will ever be able to accept Donald Trump as his president.

          • Clawed Rains August 26, 2018 at 11:59 am #

            Tinner –

            The sanctimonious hypocrisy of Trump and his fans reminds me of Captain Louis Renault in the film Casablanca.

            Nearly all sectors of the American economy – agriculture, manufacturing, construction, guest services, etc. – have for decades benefitted handsomely from exploiting the labor and often back-breaking toil of the undocumented.

            (That’s why there has been no political will to fix our immigration system – too many “citizens” are making money off its failures).

            Now, all of a sudden, we are “shocked, shocked to find that” there are millions of undocumented criminals in our midst!

          • Charles O. Jones August 26, 2018 at 3:26 pm #

            My family legally immigrated here too. Although there were no limits on immigration at the time, so that’s a bit irrelevant.

            That aside, I think we might agree, to a point at least. I agree we have an immigration problem. But like our president, the majority in congress and most of those who like to rant about illegal immigration, you don’t seem interested in discussing a major source of the problem – the abundance of willing employers. Again, no jobs = no immigration issue. Do we address our nation’s drug problem by focusing on the users, or do we direct more of our efforts on the suppliers? Why is the immigration issue so different?

    • philip anaya August 20, 2018 at 7:11 pm #

      DD. I just returned from 10 days in Holland . I saw a lot of bicycles. did not see a single homeless person in Leiden where is spent most of my time There are solutions if there is a will to make the world a better place for all

      • David Dennison August 25, 2018 at 7:41 pm #

        philip….With the so-called reality show “president” we have now,do you really think he gives a rat’s ass about the homeless….or those addicted to drugs and alcohol more or less keeping them homeless in most cases?..he and his worshipers see the homeless as nothing but more than “burdens” to society.He sees the homeless and starving,both in this country and abroad the same way as he does the poor and lower to middle middle class here in the U.S.of A,. Do you really think he cares about the drugs crossing the border,or is it he hates Mexico and Mexicans,him wanting to build that invisible “wall” he said “Mexico was going to pay for”…what I’m hoping for now,as of Saturday evening,trump and his worshipers keep their stupid mouths shut about John McCain passing away tonight,hating on him,insulting him about his Military service,not a week ago mocking him for “letting our Country down” because McCain didn’t bend down and kiss trump’s ass and agree with everything he says and tries to do,but now I’m betting they’ll start with the “hopes and prayers” thing, offering condolences,but trump and his worshipers hating on John McCain when he was alive,but now all gonna be all different and nice about him now that he’s gone….save it.

  6. Mono Person August 19, 2018 at 7:11 pm #

    If you watched the news report, tonight, on the homeless problem in LA, Mayor Garcetti can’t mange his way out of a rat hole…and he wants to run for president?!? Frying pan into the fire….

  7. Gene August 18, 2018 at 8:17 pm #

    Los Angeles keeps approving more huge apartment building projects, thereby increasing density and adding to demands for water service. The City in doing so is augmenting the water allocation problem. At the same time, the City’s policies encourage more and more people with social needs to move into the city, adding to the cost of social services and also adding to the homeless population. For the growing homeless population, the City wants to build yet even more apartments. It is all an unsustainable program.

    • Jom Toad August 20, 2018 at 6:35 am #

      You’re blaming the homeless for the cattle rancher’s water woes?


      Maybe we should just exterminate the homeless, so they don’t use massive amounts of “OUR” water.

      Which is better spent on cows.

      • Gene August 20, 2018 at 5:25 pm #

        No, Toad, you are confused. I don’t blame the homeless at all, I sympathize with them and wish I could help more. I blame our Los Angeles city leaders for pushing for more and more urban density when we lack the water and the social services to support all those new residents. It is a hardship being imposed upon Los Angeles taxpaying property owners, who are being forced to pay more in rates for less in water.

        I’m not thinking of the cattle ranchers’ water woes, although I suggest to you that their problem is indirectly traceable to the Los Angeles politicians’ thirst for more and more water, which in turn is related at least in part to the goal of building more and more apartments, to meet the never-ending housing demands of all those who want to live in Los Angeles. Obviously, nobody wants to exterminate the homeless, and I understand that you are joking in that reference. However, I submit to you that we should not be supporting hundreds of thousands of new arrivals’ water needs on the backs of Los Angeles rate-payers. We have three tiers of water pricing already, and water allocations based upon family size and lot size, which if exceeded generate admonishing letters from the DWP. Their idea of a “big” lot is roughly 7,500 sf, so if you happen to live in an older home in the San Fernando Valley on a landscaped one-half acre lot, too bad.

        The push for more and more new mass housing by the City will only compound and exacerbate the demand to suck more and more water out of the Owens Valley.


        • Jom Toad August 23, 2018 at 11:27 am #

          How dare the City of Los Angeles act humanely and build apartments to care for homeless!

          Leave them on the streets, where those “losers” belong!

          It is easy to pontificate and arm-chair quarterback when you aren’t the elected official with the burden of trying to deal with one of AMERICA’S biggest and intractable problems – our growing homeless population.

          Los Angeles owns the water; it is a city and has an obligation to use that water for its residents, homeless or not.

          It is not Los Angeles’ duty to use that water to subsidize a handful of cattle ranchers.

      • Tinner August 20, 2018 at 5:46 pm #

        Jom Toad, is that how you interpret Gene’s comment?

        • Tom Tuttle August 22, 2018 at 6:50 am #

          Gene: LADWP may be “sucking more water” out of the Owens Valley, but it is their water on their land that they are “sucking out”.

          • Gene August 24, 2018 at 11:55 am #

            Tom Tuttle: The City DWP is a municipal agency, and their “ownership” is unlike that of an individual person’s absolute and unbounded ownership, because a municipality holds its assets–including land and water–essentially in a fiduciary capacity for its cestui que trust, in this case, their rate-payers-residents. Consequently, their duty should be to strive for an equitable asset allocation, not a reapportionment of resources, which is the net result of continuously charging existing Los Angeles property owners more for less, in order to `free up’ available water to allocate to the City’s favorite project: new mass housing communities. The City may have the lawful right to take the water from Owens Valley as it pleases, as you opine, but that doesn’t mean that their subsequent use and distribution of the water knows no bounds, viz-a-viz their own property owners.

  8. philip anaya August 17, 2018 at 7:11 pm #

    And with over 100 years of perpetual mismanagement motion, LADWP continues seeking roaring 20’s justice and adjudication to resolutions and results born to their rate payers . Will they ever wake up ??

    • Tom Tuttle August 22, 2018 at 5:31 am #

      philip anaya: When will you “ever wake up” and realize and accept the fact that they legally own the land and the water rights? Just like you and other property owners, they can do what ever they want as long as it is legal.There are no laws being broken at this time. Why do people like you act like and feel entitled to everything?

      It has been over a 100 years and most people that are whining and complaining were not even alive at the time when the land was legally bought. Seriously, just deal with it and get over it.

      • Charles O. Jones August 22, 2018 at 7:35 am #

        I remember hearing similar opinions regarding Mono Lake way back in the 80’s. The courts ultimately disagreed with those opinions. Things aren’t as black and white as you make them sound.

      • Pam Vaughan August 22, 2018 at 8:33 am #

        If you look at the history of the water situation on the East Side in more recent years, you can see that if LA gets one victory, they keep working relentlessly to get as much more as possible. No, we cannot turn a blind eye on that entity. And no we won’t get over that and let them steal the rest. Thank goodness for the hard work of the Owens Valley Committee, our watchdog group.

      • philip anaya August 22, 2018 at 2:41 pm #

        TT , First off Bennet’s web site, and it still is her’s, is for an exchange of ideas. When the word “you” is inserted into a comment you are making things personal which is also unacceptable .
        The lands owned in the Eastern Sierra by the DWP are not private property. They are owned by the City of Los Angeles , Department of Water and Power and all the rate payers and residents. We all have a voice with an DWP account and dough ray me The LADWP has a fiduciary responsibiltiy to the City and to the Rate Payers. Being life time Angelino, my family and now for a long time I am a rate payer to the tune of about $400 a month . If LADWP management is going to be reckless with the environment in the Eastern Sierra, reckless with decisions that later cost me money, do you not think that having an opinion and the option to express it on this web site is a valid expression of freedom of speech. Let the facts be known. LADWP in the last 100 +years, acquired the lands and water rights by hook and crook . They misrepresented who they were and their intent when purchasing properties. They checkerboarded resistant land owners by drilling deep and extracting groundwater until the adjacent neighbors wells went dry. Oh yes, the truth. Every pro environmental issue that DWP takes credit for being a “good steward” of the land in their hogwash PR campaign has been from an adjudicated decision from the Courts. The Long Term Water Agreement , The MOU , Mono Lake, the LORP and lately dust mitigation on Owens Lake are all from the Courts.
        Now TT , You may not be aware of this short history of the DWP in the Owens Basin and you are standing up for individual rights and all of that and that is to be commended. Please however, take some, I’m sure, your valued time and do a bit of research on the DWP in the Eastern Sierra. If you believe what you read maybe your opinions might change if they do, the environmental community in the Eastern Sierra can always use another strong voice.
        One last thing TT, Before the settlers came to the Eastern Sierra the native peoples dwelled upon the lands and received the waters. Their ancestors today have been through so much injustice and with all of that ,even today the waters rights under their homes is not there own .
        Every injustice in our land can and must be resolved. If Parties can not agree, then there are laws and the justice system. That is the America that I know and the question many will continue to ask , When will the DWP ever wake up?

  9. Rest of the Story August 17, 2018 at 3:18 pm #

    LA needs the extra water for all the 100 year old Water main breaks and New Houses.

    • Tom Tuttle August 22, 2018 at 6:45 am #

      Rest of the Story: Of course they need the water. This is why they legally bought the land and the water rights over a 100 years ago. Just like any other city, they were thinking ahead in regards to the growth of the city. As with most city’s, L.A. is still growing and will keep on growing as well as the need of water and other resources.

      As for Main Breaks, just like roads, bridges, and all infrastructure, they will eventually fail and need repairs, maintenance, and replacement. Until they invent a 100,000 year pipe that will never fail, they will always have water main breaks as with all city’s and county’s all over the world.


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