Owens Valley Committee responds to LA Mayor Garcetti

– Letter submitted by the Owens Valley Committee

“We just made peace with the Owens Valley,” Mayor Garcetti declared in a recent interview with MSNBC reporter Chris Hayes. He went on to state that he wishes to avoid “turning city folk against rural folk,” that Los Angeles has “plenty of water,” and that using water to mitigate dust on the Owens Lake is “stupid.”

LA Mayor Garcetti

LA Mayor Garcetti

We wish it were so. But however much the City’s Mayor wants it, the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (LADWP) continues to wage intense battles to supply a thirsty city.

Instead of a historic truce, we have seen politics as usual. In making his incorrect statements, Mayor Garcetti unwittingly provides yet another example of the problems inherent in Los Angeles’s colonial rule of Owens Valley. Political leaders in Los Angeles rely entirely on the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power for information. Owens Valley residents cannot vote in LA elections and have no elected representatives to provide accurate information to the Mayor and to advocate for our interests.

Without such a voice, peace remains elusive. On April 27, 2015, LADWP announced it would cut off all water to the Valley’s ranchers and farmers. With only three days notice, LADWP not only threatened livelihoods, but also the Valley’s economy, native animals and plants, and its dwindling groundwater supply – all of which depend on the water that flows onto the fields of farmers and ranchers.

The Inyo-LA Long Term Water Agreement – the settlement agreement to which LA is legally bound – does not allow LADWP to unilaterally cut off water. Yet only a threat by Inyo County to seek an immediate injunction forced LADWP to back down, proving, yet again, that it will continue to “turn city folk against rural folk.”

Not only has peace not been made, LADWP is defying the Mayor’s widely publicized goals of “sustainability” and “reducing dependence on imported water.” The Mayor referred to LADWP’s plans to take water that would otherwise restore life in portions of Owens Lake, and send it down the aqueduct instead. If implemented, this plan will increase Los Angeles’s dependence on Owens Valley water instead of reducing it. Mayor Garcetti spoke of sharing Owens Lake water with the Owens Valley, but we have yet to hear that from LADWP. The new wells LADWP plans to drill will also increase Los Angeles’s dependency. While the Mayor calls for sustainability, it is exploitation as usual in the Owens Valley.

Despite claims that LA has “plenty of water,” LADWP continues to dig out seeps and springs, and to pump groundwater that is not being recharged. Meanwhile, vegetation in the Valley is drying up; fish and wildlife habitat is shrinking; farmers and ranchers must cut back crops and cattle; and dust still spews from the Owens Lake.

Some water on the lake bed is essential, and far from “stupid.” Owens Lake was the largest source of particulate pollution in North America, producing lung-scarring dust laced with toxic heavy metals. While there has been significant reduction in the amount of dust from Owens Lake, there are still too many days the dust levels exceed federal and state standards. Water not only keeps the dust down; it creates habitat for birds and other animals, and it covers – without destroying – historical artifacts and markers.

Given all this, we must question whether the “water wars” have indeed reached their end. We appreciate the Mayor’s optimism, and support for water conservation more generally, but achieving an effective truce will require more than good wishes. It requires action – not only on the part of City and County leaders, but by LADWP. For a City with “plenty of water,” and leaders truly hoping to bridge the divide between “city folk and rural folk,” such action should not be too hard.

The Owens Valley Committee is a non-profit (501c3) organization seeking just and sustainable management of Owens Valley land and water resources. We envision a valley in which existing open space is protected, historic land uses sustained, and depleted groundwater reserves and surface water flows restored as Los Angeles phases out its dependence on Owens Valley water.

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12 Responses to Owens Valley Committee responds to LA Mayor Garcetti

  1. tom okeefe July 25, 2015 at 7:18 am #

    Hey LA, keep building them subdivisions, hotels and oh ya…keep watering all those freeway landscapes….Being that I live near the source of that water[June Loop]I will use all the water I want.

  2. grace July 24, 2015 at 9:18 am #

    Peace will always be elusive, as long as DWP thinks it controls the Owens Valley through ownership and emperial rule. If LA truly wants peace, then it must treat the Owens Valley as an equal, instead of its own personal water colony. Dust mitigation is not stupid. It’s treating the source of water with respect.

  3. mtngal July 22, 2015 at 5:12 pm #

    Mr. Anaya, another well spoken comment from you; accurate, thoughtfully written, and truthful. Thank you for being a sincere voice of reason in this mess of a relationship with LADWP, and the City of Los Angeles in general.

    High Water, I can’t say the same for your comments. How insulting to not only liberals, but Christians and Catholics. I’m liberal in most of my thinking, and I’m also a Christian. Surely I am not the only one on the planet! Shame on you for your negative spewing generalizations!

    • Low-Inyo July 25, 2015 at 3:11 pm #

      mtngal…I’m thinking “High Water” is actually Donald Trump using an alias.

  4. Eastern Sierra local July 22, 2015 at 4:41 pm #

    Boy I look at the thumbs up and down. I am really surprised at the all the thumbs down to the criticism against LA.
    LA wastes too much water Period.

    • Trouble July 23, 2015 at 5:02 pm #

      Garrett says” L.A. is providing the dry lake bed with water”. He has that … backwards!

  5. Pissed July 22, 2015 at 4:14 pm #

    If Garcetti thinks that providing water to the Owens dry bed is stupid

    maybe he and his family should camp there for a week and see how they like breathing the air

  6. Daris July 22, 2015 at 2:51 pm #

    If any official in LADWP was to tell me at high noon on a sunny day that the sun was shining I would at least look out the window, but most likely go out side to see for myself what the truth was.

  7. High Water July 22, 2015 at 9:41 am #

    City folk vs. Country folk. Garcetti spewing lies Jerry brown giving a specch about were gonna be extinct.
    What Brown is saying is if we can carbon tax you and take more of your money, we may have a chance. He used the word extinction. And a catholic priest was right behind him. The left hates Christianity unless all your new voters are Catholic.

    • Mark July 22, 2015 at 10:35 am #

      The people elected Jerry Brown, the people are getting what they deserve. Hang on to your wallets it’s going to get worse.

  8. Trouble July 22, 2015 at 9:11 am #

    Tell Garcetti , Mulholland said the same bull a hundred years ago!

  9. Philip Anaya July 22, 2015 at 7:21 am #

    Mayor Garcetti’s comments are available at this link


    His comments regarding the Owens Valley begin in the 4th minute. Information and access to the Mayor is limited by 250 plus miles and by the bureaucratic hierarchy that keeps him at arms length . A needed solution to the important misinformation that Mayor Garcetti shared with Chris Hayes and the nation would be the Mayor appointing a suitable Owens Valley Representative to the LADWP Commission . If the rules require residence in LA to be appointed then that rule should be adjusted to allow the Eastern Sierra a voice in Los Angeles . A suitable rep might be someone like Mark Bagley, (He would be the first person to wish me pain for bringing his name up) who has great knowledge and understanding of the Owens Valley/DWP water issues, who has participated in successful litigation benefitting the Valley environment and yet still has the ability to communicate and resolve issues honestly with the DWP.
    The fact that the Mayor is not well informed or misrepresented the relationship between the Owens Valley and the LADWP is not a solution to steps needed to evolve a partnership . The Owens Valley Committee is correct in publically calling out the Mayor and the City of Los Angeles as there is obviously an exchange and old school DWP public relations rhetoric being waged from downtown Los Angeles. Trust is the one vital component that is missing in a evolving partnership with DWP and the Mayor not being forthright and accurate in his interview with MSNBC did not contribute to a evolving partnership. Trust to a dialog is like the rainfall we have been getting to this drought and trust and the hard truth should be pouring out of Los Angeles if they are really serious about the partnership with Nature and the Eastern Sierra. To date we have only seen a small glint of progress in an evolving partnership . The DWP and the OVC need to kick it up a notch and do everything possible to address the apparent mutual concerns that being sustainable decisions regarding water, the lifeblood of life on this earth.


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