Cal Poly looks for new relationship between LA and Inyo-Mono

Assistant Professor Barry Lehrman during workshops in Inyo-Mono

Assistant Professor Barry Lehrman during workshops in Inyo-Mono

Would Los Angeles ever consider an equal relationship with the Eastern Sierra?  One based on mutual benefit?  At Cal Poly Pomona, there are those who think it is possible.

For the past year, Master of Landscape Architecture students from Cal Poly Pomona held workshops in the Eastern Sierra and examined the Los Angeles Aqueduct and its impacts here. Now, an exhibit in LA City Hall reveals those impacts and proposals to remake the relationship of LA and Inyo-Mono.

It’s called Aqueduct Futures which is on exhibit through December 6th. Assistant Professor of Landscape Architecture Barry Lehrman hopes the project will lay the foundation for peace between LA and the Owens Valley. Sounds like a stretch of the imagination to most here, but Lehrman says he and the students will start to “develop the framework to empower the Owens Valley and Mono Basin to have control over their landscape.”

Lehrman said the cost for LA to treat Owens Valley like a water colony is substantial impacts which “may not be in LA’s best interest.” He called LA land ownership here a “huge conflict of interest.” Lehrman pointed to the 500 square miles LA owns and said, “DWP is not good at property management.” He said their primary purpose is to provide water to LA. Said Lehrman, “DWP is awful at management of resources. They are best at generating water and power.”

Though it may sound like wishful thinking, Lehrman says that economic development here is not at odds with water for LA. He said, “They think they will lose water with every flush of a toilet in the Owens valley, but that water eventually makes its way to LA.” Lehrman said LA needs to think about the fact that water is used several times.

As for the cost to mitigate the legendary dust at the Owens Dry Lake, Lehrman said, “That’s what it costs to do the right thing.” He also said that to treat the Owens Valley as an equal would be a benefit to Los Angeles.

Back to land ownership. Lehrman said if not to use land to manipulate the people in the Owens Valley, why should DWP own it? He called water use for modest growth in the

Cal Poly students worked on Aqueduct Futures o- Eric Haley, Devon Santy and Tiernan Doyle.

Cal Poly students worked on Aqueduct Futures – Eric Haley, Devon Santy and Tiernan Doyle.

Owens Valley “insignificant” compared to water use in LA for more than 3 million people. Said Lehrman, “There is no reason the Owens Valley can’t be allowed to have some growth with no substantial impact on LA.”

Lehrman and students have come up with ideas for recreation management of Owens Valley land, possibly a National Recreation Area designation along with local development. He said along with plans to revitalize the LA River, the Owens River is “worthy of equal treatment.” He said the 21st Century is about parklands and open space.

Lehrman said the time is right and discussions have begun in LA to focus on the ethical and moral treatment of the Eastern Sierra by Los Angeles. LA City Councilman Tom LeBonge sponsored the Aqueducts Future exhibit, and Lehrman hopes to have discussions with other leaders, including Mayor Garcetti. Lehrman said it’s time for LADWP to end its “culture of denial” when it comes to the big city’s water source.

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7 Responses to Cal Poly looks for new relationship between LA and Inyo-Mono

  1. Joe Q November 13, 2013 at 2:10 pm #

    Joe P-
    Sometimes a fresh perspective on things is the most useful. Many inventions and breakthroughs have been brought forward by people from the outside as they can step back and look at the forest instead of focusing on the trees.

  2. Desert Tortoise November 13, 2013 at 1:42 pm #

    “They think they will lose water with every flush of a toilet in the Owens valley, but that water eventually makes its way to LA.”

    So what are a landscaper’s hydrological bona fides to make such a statement?

  3. Joe P. November 13, 2013 at 8:04 am #

    Professor of Landscape Architecture? He has no business in land management, that belongs to natural resource or range specialists. This dude is just blowing a whole bunch of hot air. Sounds like a boondoggle to fatten his research budget. Look at me! I’m going to save the Owens valley!

    • Philip Anaya November 13, 2013 at 5:44 pm #

      Hey Joe P,
      Barry Lehrman has plenty of bona fides. His vision and the creation of the multi- disciplined program at Cal Poly Pomona of Aqueduct Futures can be seen at their website: Cal Poly Pomona, it’s programs and it’s graduates are highly regarded. It may not have the famous football or basketball programs, but it’s Science and Technology Departments should are the hopes and dreams of aspiring engineering students. I am thankful and encouraged that ethical and moral treatment is part of that education.
      The Aqueduct Futures callout for a better managed DWP, specifically the Owens Valley Operations, is a recognition based on studies and the work of Students who are not residents of the Valley and without prejudice are presenting their findings. Mr. Lehrman is absolutely correct. It is time for Los Angeles to focus on the ethical and moral treatment of the Eastern Sierra.
      I like and share the recognition that the Owens Valley is what it is today, somewhat empty and certainly pristine when compared to the LA, because of the DWP. So why not DWP, take some pride in your conservation and environmental achievements. Now that the Owens River runs through it, the Owens Valley that is, how about combining the goals and recommendations of the LORP Consultants for seasonal habitat flows with using that water for dust mitigation on the Owens Lake. You do not need a 2-3 day pump back to the Aqueduct of this 170-200 CFS flow to do the right thing. This 2-3 day event this next springtime to mimic the melt off in the snowpack is an ethical and moral choice for the biotic community of the River, the fish, the birds, the woody development etc. Nature in the Valley is on a scale from microscopic life form to all the way up to the view sheds and vistas. They all take away the breath in their magnificence. Just because I can’t see microscopic life forms does mean that they are not part of life on Earth here in this Valley..These things need ethical and moral consideration and these things make up the Valley that DWP has given all of us.
      The are great gaps in the “Life Cycle” of the biotic community in Los Angeles. I guess it’s a brave new world without a native plant and the bio relationship of animals. Weeds are what they are called, invasive to nearly everything else available in the LA Nurseries and Garden Centers. These have disappeared from the landscapes, gardens and streets of LA and the replacement bio forms that need water and incarceration prevail.
      Life needs water and there is a place for Landscape Architect Profs, skilled carpenters and all who hydrate to have part in the discussion of the future of the planet. Measure twice, cut once, Joe P. You have taken an interest in this discussion with your comments expressed and your ideas are appreciated. Since they do not concur with my own knowledge or opinion, I am responding to you and asking if you do not know who Mr. Lehrman is, please take the time to ascertain that he’s not the backyard garden kind of Landscape Architect. This man has knowledge, vision and thoughts that are for the future and the revitalization of this world and the Owens Valley.

  4. salblaster November 12, 2013 at 6:51 pm #

    I like small town and everything that goes with it. I like the open spaces around my small town, when I hear someone say national recreation area I think more law enforcement looking over my shoulder, more road closures, more people trying to boss other people around.Although I’m not to worried about the valley becoming a national park or area or whatever, dwp will give up it’s land when they pry it from their cold dead fingers.

  5. Mongo The Idiot November 12, 2013 at 1:13 pm #


  6. Clyde A. November 12, 2013 at 11:21 am #

    Sounds great, but
    DWP will have to relly step up to the plate and deliver some real changes before the Owens valley will have a better feeling towards the aquaduct and ground pumping.
    100 years of destruction and total disregard for the enviroment has gotten us to this place in time.


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