Boating through the tules.  Photo by Frank Colver

Boating through the tules. Photo by Frank Colver


Four Owens Valley Committee (OVC) Representatives were granted entry to the first all day “Lower Owens River Project (LORP) Summit” meeting on Tuesday, July 29th.  Participants included: Los Angeles Department of Water and Power staff and attorney; Inyo County staff, Water Commissioners and attorneys; Sierra Club representatives, consultants, and an attorney; California Department of Fish and Wildlife staff; consultants Ecosystem Scientists; and three lessees.  Neither media nor interested members of the public were permitted entry, despite OVC’s requests that the meeting be open for observation.

The LORP is compensatory mitigation for over 20 years of DWP water gathering activities in the Owens Valley, and re-watering began in December 2006.  The purpose of the summit was to share information and perspectives on LORP conditions, and presentations were provided by consultants and DWP and Inyo County Water Department personnel. The group heard about water flows, fish, wildlife, and plants.  Rancher Scott Kemp also provided information about the condition of his lease that covers a portion of the LORP.

The presentations revealed positive trends resulting from over seven years of re-watering.  The fishery is improving every year, birds are more abundant, and cattle are well-managed.  Concern about the amount of tules was discussed at length, and their presence is positive or negative depending on their location and density.  The consultants explained that tules, which are tall reeds that thrive in saturated conditions, help purify water of poor quality that comes into the LORP from Tinnemaha Reservoir, but they also degrade water quality as they seasonally decompose and rob the water of oxygen.  It was also learned that below Mazourka Canyon Road, according to scientists and rancher Scott Kemp, the river is obstructed in several places.  There may be several causes for these obstructions including beaver dams, overgrowth of tules and the condition of the river bed before commencement of the LORP.

The first day ended with a proposal by DWP to modify flow regimes, and their proposal included increasing not only the amount of water released to the LORP but also the amount pumped back to their aqueduct so that water does not spill onto Owens Lake.  A lively discussion ensued, and time ran out before any conclusions were drawn.

The field trip is Wednesday, July 30th, with the conclusion of the LORP Summit on Thursday, July 31st.


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