Submitted by Daniel Pritchett
According to a press release recently issued by the Big Pine Paiute Tribe of the Owens Valley, DWP has yet to start repairs to its pipe which supplies irrigation water to the Big Pine reservation. The pipe has gotten increasingly clogged by tree roots and unless DWP acts promptly this will be the third year in a row the agency will have failed to provide the tribe’s full allotment of water. DWP is obligated to provide water under terms of the 1939 land exchange which established the reservation.
DWP is up to its old tricks: making an agreement, then refusing to honor the terms unless it gets further concessions. According to the Big Pine Tribal Administrator, DWP will not start fixing the pipe until the tribe signs a new “agreement” which includes terms unacceptable to the tribe. To most people this is bad faith; to DWP this is business as usual. DWP should not be allowed to force the tribe (or any other party) to sign a new agreement simply to get DWP to honor the terms of an existing one.
Why does this sound so familiar? It is the same kind of extortion DWP practices on Inyo County.
Remember the Big Pine re-greening project? DWP delayed initiating this mitigation project (required under the EIR to the Water Agreement) for almost 20 years, then said it would only implement the project if it were granted a well exemption. A well exemption allows DWP to pump water regardless of the consequences of the pumping, thereby defeating the purpose of the Water Agreement. Rather than objecting to this extortion, Inyo County Water Department Director Bob Harrington bypassed the Inyo County Water Commission and railroaded the exemption through the Technical Group over strenuous public objections.
Let us all support the Big Pine Tribe in its efforts to resist DWP’s extortion. The tribe’s success will set a positive example for the county. You can help by contacting Mel Levine, Chairman of the LA Board of Water and Power Commissioners, and asking him instruct DWP to honor its obligation to provide water to the Big Pine tribe with no strings attached.