Officials, citizens comment on DWP pressures to cut dust controls

DEATH VALLEYDepartment of Water and Power Water Operations Director Martin Adams tried to put a good spin on a plan to cut dust control and water use on Owens Lake as a prerequisite to a Master Plan for habitat protection at the dry lake bed. The Inyo Supervisors did make it clear that dust control is out of their hands and that the Owens Lake Master Plan committee should be where DWP needs to work on its ideas. Today, more comments from that meeting Tuesday.

Adams made his point that water for dust control means “no extra water to spread on the valley floor and a strain on water to LA.” He said DWP believes they can pump groundwater at the dry lake to control dust “without surface impacts.” Adams’ plan tries to put pressure on the Air Pollution Control Board, which LADWP has sued, to pull back on dust control requirements. APCD Director Ted Schade has repeatedly pointed out that it’s DWP’s choice to use water instead of gravel or other means.

Phillip Annaya  of Bishop said DWP’s plan “sounds like a eulogy for the burial of the Master Plan process.” Annaya said DWP should not circumvent the Master Plan group. He also questioned DWP’s wish to pump groundwater at the dry lake for dust control. Annaya said, “Look at the mismanagement and problems we have in the Owens Valley – Black Rock, Laws, and the Bishop Cone – these issues have to be addressed responsibly before there is another wellfield.” Annaya said he thinks it’s all about water down the aqueduct.

For several years, LADWP officials have told ranchers and others that they could not give them so much water as in the past because of water use on the dry lake bed. For decades, DWP has used ranch leases to pressure ranchers into supporting their views.

Rancher Scott Kemp complained about “wasted water” on the dry lake delta and in the Lower Owens River which he called a “marsh of 500 acres of tules.” Kemp said DWP is “watching stock water all over the Valley.” He called for a compromise on dust control.

So did Rancher Tom Noland who said there should be no more dust control on the dry lake bed. George Milovich said, “Sacrificing the Valley for the dry lake makes no sense.” Rancher Mark Lacey said, “Stock water is being affected by the lake.”

What the ranchers did not say, Nancy Masters did. She said, “Why is stock water being affected. The Long Term Water Agreement,” she said, “guarantees the same irrigation as the 1981-82 runoff year. Water is available. It’s in the aqueduct. We need to make sure the ranching community receives water pursuant to the Water Agreement.” Masters also said if water does not go to the dry lake, there is no guarantee the ranchers will get it.

Nina Weissman said, “I really feel that LADWP is using their unwillingness to finish dust control as the reason for no water on the fields.” Weissman cautioned the Supervisors to look deeper. “It’s a very serious issue,” she said.

Supervisor Jeff Griffiths said he sees collaborative planning as the key. He said, “We’re at the point to move past an adversarial relationship.” He said he did not see the Lower Owens River as a best use of water but said that an Owens Lake Master Plan should move forward quickly but “get there with buy-offs from stakeholders in the Owens Lake Master Plan committee.” He did point out that the Inyo Supervisors have no control over pollution issues at the dry lake.

Supervisor Rick Pucci said he wanted to see trust on both sides. Said Pucci, “We need commonality. I don’t really see that. We need to preserve our area and the uses we have. The Owens Lake,” he said, “has to be a compromise. That’s critical.”

Supervisor Mark Tillemans questioned groundwater pumping at the dry lake and said the Water Agreement governs that. He also DWP needed to consider the economic side of things and how they have hurt the growth of the Owens Valley.

Supervisor Matt Kingsley pointed to the Master Plan process and the need to deal with it. He said DWP will have to deal with the Air Pollution Control District and State Lands Commission on dust issues.

Adams connected less water for ranchers to dry lake dust control, and when it came to a guarantee that water saved at the lake would remain in the Owens Valley Adams was vague. He said, “We will see how to make more water available in the Owens Valley.” Supervisor Linda Arcularius pressed him when she said, “We need a level of certainty regarding ranch water. This would contribute to the level of trust Mr. Pucci spoke so eloquently about.””


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22 Responses to Officials, citizens comment on DWP pressures to cut dust controls

  1. Philip Anaya April 5, 2013 at 7:25 pm #

    One of the best sources of the history of the Owens Valley is a web site developed by a California State University San Diego Professor that has about 18 -19 oral history presentations by Ranchers, DWP people,Residents and Environmentalists.
    That should give you some first hand information and history. There are plenty of books that have been written. Cadillac Desert by Marc Riesner not only has the history of the Aqueduct in Chapter 2 ,”The Red Queen” but has a few more of the stories of the Water Issues of the American West. PBS even had a series in the late 90’s from the book and you can see “Muhollands Dream” in a 8-9 segments of 9 minute episodes on Youtube
    I hope thats helpful .I hope that you see these unbiased versions of the history of the DWP in the Valley. If you want check out DWP’s self serving biased version of their history go their website.
    The issue of Water for the Ranchers has a whole lot of history and now here at the end of 100 years of history of the Aqueduct, Ranchers are still being abused so badly and so unfairly that you won’t be an Outsider for too much longer, once you discover the facts of Ranchers and water in the Owens Valley.

  2. Ted April 4, 2013 at 12:16 pm #

    Ranchers of the Owens Valley have always been used as pawns by the LADWP. If DWP wants something, they mess with the ranchers; leave them alone. They are the ones that manage the water on valley floor and make it look as good as it can; DWP should be thankful for that.

    • Waxlips April 5, 2013 at 3:45 am #

      Extortion is what I call it Ted, and that’s illegal. DWP has been doing it for over a 100 years! Yes threats to take, if you don’t do is extortion. It’s unfortunate the ranchers folded. Nancy Masters has it right. DWP must supply the ranchers sufficient water as well as do their part on the Owens (dry) Lake. Backing down to DWPs bullying has also been going on for a 100 years as well. It’s time this behavior stops. However, some of the the folks working on this whole mess have ties with DWP and that is a conflict of interest. In that is where the conflict lies, and is one of the reasons this fight has been allowed to continue. Please correct me if I’m wrong.

      • outsider April 5, 2013 at 12:56 pm #

        “Some of the folks” like who? I see this accusation all the time but no one ever backs it up. Who and what is the conflict?

      • Mike April 5, 2013 at 6:31 pm #

        Please state who are the ‘some of the folks’ are. This makes for a more open and thorough discussion. Don’t attack anyone, but put your ideas out there for thorough discussion. Thanks.

  3. Philip Anaya April 3, 2013 at 9:45 pm #

    Matt Kingsley commented to a small group of people before the meeting ” The most important people here are sitting at the back of the room” referring to folks who had come to the meeting. I think that the consensus of opinon was that the most important people were sitting up in the very front of the room.
    That’s what I saw and what I think we’ll be seeing from this wonderful group of dedicated people. Important people sitting in the front of the room taking on important issues and doing the best job, seeking the best results that will lay the foundation for Inyo county and the LADWP into the next 100 years. We given them the job ,now it’s time to give them our support and I’m sure much appreciation in the future.

    • outsider April 4, 2013 at 9:38 pm #

      I want what you’re smokin’! These are the same people who sold out to BrightSource. or tried to!

      • Philip Anaya April 5, 2013 at 6:46 am #

        Maybe you’re right about Bright Source. I know that I might be on the wrong side of a limb with a saw in my hand but these folks are on the front line with the DWP and I have great hopes for unified , considered and best possible decisions from this Board in it’s responsibilities in dealing with the DWP. Best we can do is let them know what we think about issues, do what we can to share knowledge with them and empower them with a open mind, understanding and support. Rah Rah Ree , Kick em in the knee,Rah Rah ras kick em in their ass enthusiasm would not be over doing it.
        Let’s start with making sure the Ranchers are getting their water.

  4. sierragrl April 3, 2013 at 6:19 pm #

    How about the water needed for dust control comes out of the share going to LA? They’ve never even implemented water conservation there…I spent my youth with severe water restrictions in the bay area, while we would visit family in LA who were hosing down their driveways! and guess what??? they still do!

    • Desert Tortoise April 3, 2013 at 8:02 pm #

      Not true. LA County has the seventh lowest water consumption per capita in California at 185 gallons per person per day. Inyo County, by comparison, has the highest per capita water consumption of any county in California at over 471 gallons per person per day. That is strictly domestic water use and does not count irrigation or fisheries.

      Be patient and let the color coded county borders load on this map. It may take a few moments.,-119.267578&spn=8.390456,14.0625&z=6&source=embed

      As you can see the coastal urban counties tend to have the lowest water consumption while inland and desert counties have the highest water consumption, with Inyo County using more than any other county per person.

      • Benett Kessler April 4, 2013 at 7:59 am #

        How do you know the figures here do not include the hatcheries and irrigation. As I posted earlier, figures
        in the 80s did include that water.

        • Desert Tortoise April 4, 2013 at 8:33 pm #

          Read the DWRs pdf (linked on the last thread where I brought this up) that explains how they calculate water use per capita. For starters, it only examines water use from what they call urban water suppliers, so agricultural uses and rural well users are excluded, but industrial uses would be included. The data itself comes from the water districts and is supplied to the state DWR along with their plans to reduce water use by 20% by 2020.

      • sierragrl April 4, 2013 at 9:19 am #

        I call foul. There is NO WAY that domestic water use is the highest in Mono County. Nobody even has lawns, what would they be using the water for? Heck in Mammoth, most people don’t even own hoses or have outside hose bibs! I would expect Mammoth to be similar to SF, however, SF does have very small average household size.

        Obviously the number listed for Mono County HAS to include something else. It would be nice to figure it out. I don’t think you can argue otherwise Tortoise. Any theories?

        • Desert Tortoise April 4, 2013 at 8:43 pm #

          With a big Mastercool evaporative cooler and a small yard to water it is quite easy for a couple to use in excess of 400 gallons per day in the desert during the summer. Even one person living alone in a house can use that much water. In fact is can be work to use less during the hottest months. It chagrins me that my tenants in San Jose, two couples in a pretty large duplex I own, use less total water during the winter (one meter for both units so I end up paying it out of the rent) than I do at home, and my home has all the latest energy saving features required by the building codes. During the winter months both couples together use less than 100 gallons per day. I still exceed that. One two-month billing period this past witer they used under 26 gallons per day total for the whole duplex. I see the water in the gutters out here. In LA or the Bay Area that will earn you an expensive fine.

          • sierragrl April 5, 2013 at 11:00 am #

            You must not have noticed that I said Mono County, not Inyo. People do not have evaporative coolers in Mono County (or at least very few, maybe in Bridgeport or Walker). Want to try again?
            Your previous note might be the answer….the numbers include Industrial uses….so a large industrial use (such as golf courses and MMSA) would create a huge PER CAPITA average in small population areas. Obviously those uses would be buried in the per capita average in huge cities with millions of people.
            Find some GOOD numbers that aren’t skewed and then we’ll talk!

      • MJA April 6, 2013 at 7:09 am #

        The reason Inyo County usage is so high is to counter balance the removal of the ground and surface water by the DWP. Without this high usage by Inyo Co residence, their once naturally green farms and gardens and yards would be dust bowls too. People of Inyo should use as much as they want before its all taken to LA and gone.
        Keep the Owens green!

    • Mike April 5, 2013 at 6:27 pm #

      Los Angeles leads the nation in water conservation. The City uses roughly the same amount of water that it did 30 or more years ago and has 1M more people. LA can do more, of course, For example it does not reuse water at as high of a level as other cities. That should be increased considerably. Another example is the 23% water use reduction that the residents of LA achieved in 2010-2011 in just 9 months! That should be locked in if the restriction was relaxed after that dry period. There are over 1M low flow toilets in LA and their use as well as low flow shower heads are written into City ordinance. Are there water meters in Bishop? Are low flow toilets and shower heads written into Bishop and Inyo County ordinances? In an age of profound climate change, people everywhere must live responsibly.

      • Ken Warner April 6, 2013 at 8:02 am #

        What you say about L. A is good news. But holding Bishop up to comparison to L. A. is not useful. There’s 9 million people in L.A. County. There’s about 18,000 in Inyo County.

        The problem is that L.A. takes too much water from the Owens sustain it’s plants and other wild life.

        What L.A. is doing WRT water conservation is good. But they simply have to do more. And they have to invest in more water reclamation and desalinization.

        L.A.’s population — along with every place else in the World — will continue to increase. There still is much to do and the Owens Valley is too precious a resource — if only from an agricultural viewpoint — to let die from lack of water.

        • Mike April 8, 2013 at 5:54 am #

          Ken – Remember that the OV water only goes to the City of Los Angeles and to no one else. LA’s population is around 4M.

  5. Daris April 3, 2013 at 3:41 pm #

    I have been trying to press the same point that Nancy Master stated the Long Term Water Agreement say that Department SHALL continue to provide water for Los Angeles-owned lands in Inyo County in an amount sufficient so that the water-related uses of such lands that were made during the 1981-82 runoff year can continue to be made. I have been before the Supervisors, the Water Commission, the Technical committee, the Standing committee and noone can give me a answer as to why the Department does not have to abide by a signed legal document. Can anyone answer my question?

    • Mike April 5, 2013 at 6:17 pm #


      If I remember correctly, LADWP grazing leases say that stockwater will be provided to lessees. It doesn’t say how the water will be provided or how much will be provided. A legal challenge by Inyo is always possible, but is probably considered chancy in terms of prevailing or the Inyo BOS would have challenged LA in the past. Owens Lake is not affecting stock water for lessees, policy in LADWP is doing that. The Ruiz lease in Lone Pine had year round stockwater by ditch until 2003, 10 years ago and before the levels of aqueduct water poured onto the lake. The ditch was dried up and water was supplied by hose bib and tub. The ditch now runs off and on only during irrigation season April 1 – Sept. 30. To see the effects of this unilateral change by LADWP go to the Alabama Hills Recreation Area pull off on Whitney Portal Road. The former solid wall of 10 foot high water birch are slowly dying back along the Ruiz ditch. LADWP continues to cut out the dead branched leaving clear openings in the green wall now with much small birches remaining. What about impacts to vegetation? How does the LTWA protect that resource? As for Owens Lake drying up the valley remember about half the volume of water flowing down the LAA is used outside homes and businesses – for landscaping primarily. LADWP could continue to use water for dust control at Owens LAke and conserve and reuse at higher levels in LA and then make the policy decision to share more water with lessees and enhancement/ mitigation projects in OV. The discussion up here in OV should not be only about lessee water, but should also include the important enhancement/mitigation projects that are in the Long-term Water Agreement as well. What about the wildlife, plant communities and recreation that the E/M’s provide for us?

      • Philip Anaya April 6, 2013 at 5:22 pm #

        In the Long Term Water Agreement, Section II Article IV “Vegetation Management Goals and Principals ,Type E Vegetation” described in the Section II Article II as:
        “this classificationis comprised of areas where water is provided to City-owned Lands for alfalfa production,pasture,recreatin use ,wildlife habitats,livestock and enhancement projects”

        The section for Type E Vegetation has requirements in 3 paragraphs . the most descriptive words from each are:
        Paragraph 1 “These lands will be supplied with water and will be managed to avoid causing significant decreases and changes in vegetation from vegetation conditions which existed on such lands during the 1981-82 runoff year”
        Paragraph 2 “The Department shall provide water for Los Angeles-owned lands in Inyo County in a amount sufficent so that the water related uses of such lands that were made during the 1981-82 runoff year can continue to be made” the final sentence of the paragraph ” Additionally, the Department shall provide water to any enhancement /mitigation project added since 1981-1982, unless the Inyo County Board of Supervisiors and the Department agree to reduce or eliminate such water supply”
        Paragraph 3 ” It is recognized that succesive dry years could result in in sufficent water to meet all needs. Diuring periods of dry year water shortages , the Technical Group will evaluate existing conditions. A program providing for reasonable reductions in irrigation water supply for Los Angeles-owned lands in the Owens Valley and for enhancement/mitigation projects may be implemented if such a program is approved by the Inyo County Board of Supervisors and the Department,acting thru the Standing Committee”

        This document is at

        Gotta thank Mike for his good info on his post and getting me to read and learn about this part of the Longterm Water Agreement. Everyone with an interest or concerns regarding Owens Valley Water needs access to reliable and honest understanding of the rights and responsibilities of all the parties concerned.
        The Board of Supervisiors have so many responsibilities with all of the issues of governing Inyo County especially with the water Issues. The folks that have worked in the past to have achieved the Longterm Water Agreement have done a great labor for the Valley. We need to support both these far sighted folks and the Board. These far sighted folks helped author and negotiate, sat in meeting after meeting, applied their wisdom and their energy to craft to not only the have the idea of a Longterm Water Agreement but a technical operations agreement and manual to preserve the Valley into the future for our children and their children . The Board is charged with the responsibility and the task to support and manage the Agreement and build upon this cornerstone document.
        I’m thinking that the Supervisors need and will protect the rights of the Ranchers. They need to be asked to agree to the reductions of water for the Ranchers and the enhancement/ mitigation projects. If there is a need for the DWP to limit this water then they need to request it through the processes that are outlined in the Longtern Water Agreement . Only then can that water be sent elsewhere. The Board has some tough decisions to make and litigation relief and enforcement might be needed.
        The Board needs all of our input and all of our support because this Board values the needs of people. Most of them ,probably all of them, think that the folks who come to the Board Meetings, salt of the earth folks who might be Ranchers or Farmers or Environmentalists who sit in the back of the room, and are so humble to ask for anything( well maybe not Environmentalist,but then they are mentalists) any help, for some water needed and promised for what grows out the ground. Ranchers and Botanists and all the others have a varied education source but they all share and see the need for water. Mother Nature has not yet revealed all her secrets but water for life is apparent. LADWP pipedreams need constant attention and no one has enough wisdom to attend them . However all of us can and must come together with a common purpose to make sure we start the next 100 years of the Aqueduct with adequete water,as prescribed by the Long Term Water Agreement for the Ranchers and for the current enhancement/mitigation projects of the Owens Valley.


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