Inyo, LADWP still disagree on when to shut off pumps

groundwater-pumpbp-1More than twenty-two years ago, Inyo County and the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power signed a long term agreement that was supposed to end disputes over groundwater pumping. Those disputes continue, and there is still no agreed upon method to control pumps.

The section of that long term agreement that was supposed to manage pumping to avoid damage is ironically called The Green Book. Both Inyo and LA have agreed that this set of rules has failed. For six years, they have debated what to do next. Now, they will get back to talking with a facilitator and more studies.

Inyo Water Director Bob Harrington said the Green Book revision has sat on a back burner while the Water Department has dealt with other issues, like a dispute with LADWP over the Black Rock area and damage done there. Inyo says pumping has killed part of the environment. LADWP denies it.

Last week, the Inyo Supervisors approved a contract with a facilitator, Susan Carpenter, to sit down with both sides to look for answers. Harrington said LA has challenged some of Inyo’s plant data and talks have been more or less stalled. Harrington is confident that Inyo’s data is good. He and his staff are looking at management of pumping based on depth to water. What’s the hang-up to that logical approach?

Harrington said DWP wants to sort out surface water and precipitation from groundwater fluctuations. He said Inyo has never disputed that. Discussions, he said, have “gone around in circles.” In the last couple of years, Harrington said, disputes over Black Rock and DWP’s pumping plans have consumed time and effort.

The Water Director also said that both sides have agreed to use the Ecological Society of America to “assemble a panel of scientists to assist with the Green Book revision process.” More so-called cooperative studies also lie ahead. LADWP, according to the Water Agreement, will pay for the studies and facilitation.

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19 Responses to Inyo, LADWP still disagree on when to shut off pumps

  1. Big AL February 27, 2013 at 9:48 pm #

    I am not a big fan of DWP although some here feel I am for some reason, maybe because I defend them in some ways when I see something right to agree with.

    I have disagreed with Philip at times and Salblaster, and Benett and a couple others, but I also agree with them all other points.

    I like your post Philip, some good points. I get what Salblaster is trying to say, some want them out of the valley, some want them to be responsible, and some love the fact that they are here.

    The bottom line as I have been saying, is that they just need to be responsible for their actions, not to shirk those responsibilities.

    As I have said before, the water would flow south on it’s own. but it would get no where near Los Angeles. That is just the flow of gravity. But the problem is, in their efforts to supply the Los Angeles area with water, they have created harm to this valley, there is no denying that.

    While this is a high desert environment, in that, it is a dry landscape, what changes that is the amount of water that sheds from the adjacent mountain ranges. There were areas of wetlands and riparian, more of which existed, there is no doubt, before the DWP started collecting and carrying carrying the water south on a large scale.

    I firmly believe ground water pumping is detrimental when it becomes excessive. By excessive, I mean on the scale such as the DWP uses with high volume pumps which pump continuously 24-7. On the small scale, people other than the DWP and their high volume pumps, do not serve a detriment because the underground watershed can sufficiently recharge the aquifers.

    If they only took surface water away and did not pump … giving that the population can not increase significantly, the ground water could hold its own. How ever, if DWP’s existence was not here, this valley would still be a big time agricultural valley. With all of the private ownership of land, it would face the possibility of development of the area and would also have an increase of population.

    This increase in population along with more heavy agricultural use, could posibly effect the ground water in a negative way.

    But their responsibility to the area, to the environment is something that they do everything possible to not honor. Their business of supplying water to the south land is all they can see, it also makes them money. Water is money, and we can’t have it layin around in that lake to evaporate into thin air. We need to get every dollar and drop of water we can get. That’s how the city sees it. Get it here how ever you get it here, I can see their way of thinking .. to them it is justified, and in a way, in a twisted way, it is.

    But it is not rightfully justified at the expense of the environment, and the health of people living in the valley, that have to deal with excessive amounts of dust that carries harmful particulates.

    If they are not held to task, they will bring long term harm to the valley, I don’t see it as necessarily irreparable. As I stated, mother nature (the earth) can do it’s work to recharge … if the damage is not excessive. If not bridled, the thirst would cause damage when the void left by the lack of sufficient volume of water in the aquifers will create a void that most likely will collapse. Then the earth does not have the ability for recharge.

    So it is my opinion that the scale in which the city pumps water, and carries it away, it is damaging the environment. It is also my opinion that LA needs to honor its responsibility to clean up it issues here in all areas.

    • Trouble February 27, 2013 at 10:56 pm #

      Big Al- well said, I wish your hart ran DWP.

  2. salblaster February 27, 2013 at 6:11 pm #

    I don’t think im in denial over groundwater depth, I fully understand the relationship between pumping water and surface vegatation. I would say when it comes to the balance between water for human resource and water for plants I side heavy for humans, and I dont think the pumping going on now is destroying the valley, effecting it yes but not destroying.

    • Benett Kessler February 27, 2013 at 6:34 pm #

      I did not accuse you of denial. I said DWP is in denial. Science has proved it and our souls know it, you can’t separate humans from animals, birds, plants, trees. We’re all part of the picture. The unconsidered fine points between “affecting” and “destroying” are what hurt our environment.
      Benett Kessler

    • Jeremiah's stance February 27, 2013 at 9:32 pm #

      Salblaster you have validated my concern. The concern of humans thinking they can continue to have their way with precious resources and habitats at our convenience. It’s not fair to generations after us, because I know in my heart the resources that we take for granted all have a shelf life as well. .

      • Big AL February 27, 2013 at 9:49 pm #

        I will agree with you there Jerry. Shelf life!

  3. Philip Anaya February 27, 2013 at 5:59 pm #

    Hey salbalaster,You have made some valid points in your posts. I am for over 6 decades, a San Fernando Valley LA Man and along with all that water I have used and no small thanks to the DWP, I also have Owens River water in my blood and the Owens Valley in my heart and soul. This saga of the water wars in the Owens Valley has a history that is upfront and personal in some varied way with all of us.
    I agree that the Valley is not a desolate wasteland, not yet, but rather it is a desolate paradise that is being threatened and damaged by the activity of overpumping the ground water. These magnifcent breathtaking landscapes include surfaces of the mountains and the Valley where no human has ever stepped, but hardly is there a square inch of land where some other lifeform be it plant or animal has evolved and existed. It is not for the DWP to adversely affect the life cycle of this eco system. It is my hope that these open and primal lands that are the result of the DWP Owens Valley saga could stay that way. Man puts a footprint and his/her result on nearly every square inch of the terra firma on this earth. Here in the Eastern Sierra there is a age old natural history that is a rare and special place on this planet and it’s a place where the LADWP has a responsibility along with their proclaimed ownership of the waters. They need and must do a better job. They need to honor nature and honor their commitments to Water Agreements. Maybe you do not agree with anything written here but one thing that we do agree upon is that this is a great place to live and enjoy. I want to see, experience and finally get to dwell in a place on earth that reflect creation and the gift of existance.
    The best things that I can do in this pursuit to try and make something that is seemingly impossible,the DWP good or bad, a little bit better. Well, maybe not the best thing for me and another thing, a BBQ Bills bacon cheeseburger. Don’t you get them for free if you work there? Oh goodness ,sometimes I like ’em too much.

  4. salblaster February 27, 2013 at 3:24 pm #

    Jeremiah, i bet a bacon cheeseburger from barbacue bills I do not nor have i ever worked for dwp. I’m just a local born and raised in the owens valley. I spent a lot of time fishing, hunting, hiking,dirt biking ect.ect. and i just dont see owens valley eroding into a desolate wasteland. it’s a great place to live and enjoy. If i’m riding my quad out to tinemaha I’m not thinking darn if only there was no dwp than i could really enjoy the outdoors, I’m just glad to be out and exploring the valley.

    • Benett Kessler February 27, 2013 at 3:58 pm #

      salblaster, You’re making the issue too black and white. No one, including me, has ever said get rid of DWP or I wish they had never come.
      That is not the point. The point is ethical, good neighbor behavior that DWP has not exhibited. This will ultimately hurt their own
      employees who need services like Southern Inyo Hospital and many others that can not establish themselves here because of LA’s stranglehold
      on our land. To not admit that depth to water is the way to determine if pumps should stay on or not is plain denial of reality.

    • Jeremiah's stance February 27, 2013 at 4:34 pm #

      I guess there is no winning or need to continue to debate when one doesn’t acknowledge facts. So I made the assumption that you work for DWP since the effects are out there for everybody to see and deal with. I was wrong to assume, but I can’t grasp how anybody from the valley can defend LADWP since they really could care less about us then and now!

  5. Jeremiah's stance February 27, 2013 at 2:33 pm #

    How much you want to bet Salblaster works and/or worked for LADWP?
    And if my assumption is correct salblaster your views are not applicable, since there is incentive’s for you to not acknowledge the devastation to the habitats and riparian area’s.

  6. salblaster February 27, 2013 at 1:42 pm #

    Isn’t the area east of indy covered with a green field and a tree lot developed and irragated by dwp and leased to a local rancher. It does not look “destroyed” to me. And southern Inyo hospital threatens to close every year around this time yet it keeps on going. I would bet it will be open for decades to come.

    • Benett Kessler February 27, 2013 at 1:54 pm #

      The tree lot is a small project to the east of Independence. The spring field, about which I speak, is many, many acres to the east of the tree lot and ranch lease.
      It used to be green, covered with trees and springs. It is now a moonscape. Check it out. You have made assumptions without looking.

      Same is true about Southern Inyo Hospital. Yes, it has been on the verge of closure for many years and has taken Herculean efforts by many local residents to keep
      it going. As the communities of Lone Pine and Independence have shrunk, so has the hospital. When I first came to the area 37 years ago, Lone Pine had half a dozen
      doctors, more people, a car dealership, two or three banks and much more. Without the ability to grow just a bit due to LADWP land ownership and and surrounding
      Lone Pine, shrinkage has taken over.

      You have made some seriously wrong assumptions.
      Benett Kessler

  7. salblaster February 27, 2013 at 10:58 am #

    Again with the ” destuction of the owens valley” comment, do you drink water, take showers, water your lawn, wash your car, are you not also contributing to the “destuction of the owens valley”?. I see it as water is essential for human expansion, why be selfish and keep the water. The people of L.A. are americans too, it’s not like the waters going to Mexico or south America, Inyo benifits from taxes collected from dwp, local economy gets a boost from dwp workers who live and spend in the Owens Valley. As for “the destruction of the Owens Valley” show me some specifics of where this destruction is occuring. I also put human expansion and development above the rights of a sage brush.

    • Benett Kessler February 27, 2013 at 12:09 pm #

      I have interviewed people who were here in the sixties when groundwater pumping began. Hundreds of trees died and were hauled off. Some of them to the
      fireplaces of top DWP officials in LA. The area east of Independence, formerly a spring field, died. Similar areas around other towns died. The
      groundwater has gone down some 40 feet in the Independence area. Inyo successfully filed a California Environmental Quality Act lawsuit and had DWP
      on the ropes but then signed an agreement which has not proved effective.

      No one is suggesting we block water to Los Angeles. Many have suggested that DWP accept a reasonable management protocol to do what the original lawsuit
      intended – shut off pumps when they start to kill plants and trees. LA got all the surface water. They don’t need to take as much groundwater as they can
      get at the expense of more vegetation death. Eventually, they have to pay for what they need. There is lots of water available through Metropolitan Water
      District and other sources. LA’s own Urban Water Management Plan documents an available surplus for the City.

      DWP’s tax rate, set by a state law, is not the same as all other property owners. They got a deal.

      While we all enjoy the wide open spaces, DWP’s death grip on lands around Owens Valley towns has stifled healthy growth and has contributed to situations
      like Southern Inyo Hospital barely hanging on. Hospitals need patients. That means the towns need people. That requires modest amounts of land for growth.
      You might want to look at the need for “human expansion and development” of our own people right here in the Eastern Sierra.

      Benett Kessler

      • Jeremiah's stance February 27, 2013 at 2:24 pm #

        And somebody was trying to hold you to not blogging on your own website? How else are the rest of us able to be educated on others education if you keep it inside!
        That is something I have been saying also is, we all like the wide open spaces and this valley being nothing like city BUT, there is no jobs in a open space, there is no opportunity to create jobs on this open space that can’t be bought, there is no opportunity to rejuvenate tax revenue from open space. So who must that work for? well I guess those employed by LADWP and those that are already doing well for themselves.
        And what happens when we keep getting more and more drought’s but LA they still has a demand to meet?
        A quote I picked up recently thought I might share it:
        In June 1924, a committee from the LA Chamber of Commerce came into the valley to investigate the trouble and get first-hand-knowledge, After a short stay in the valley they returned to LA and prepared a report which was never given out. According to an editorial which appeared in the LA record at this time, the only reason it was not given out was because it was favorable to Owens Valley and criticized city officials.
        Page 31.
        (Owens Valley and the LA water controversy) -Richard Coke Wood-

        Don’t be a sheep and defend the corrupt!

  8. Philip Anaya February 27, 2013 at 9:41 am #

    There is a century of history of the City of Los Angeles in the Owens Valley and so the waters have been flowing south. The enginnering of the Aqueduct is a technical marvel. The management of the marvel however reveals a ruthless and nonsensible pattern of behavior of the City of Los Angeles and the DWP.
    If one examines the chornology of that history available at:
    the 27 pages reveal that DWP is not a responsible party in any agreement. Without a Court Order, decision, injunction or the impending issuance of such a requirement and penalties ,unfortunately the DWP has not acted as a responsible institution. Their history and their flawed performance in all matters of “Water Agreements” needs one of two things.
    The first and the best would be a new and a cooperative stewardship of their responsibilities and the agreements with the Inyo County Water Department. The alternative is the continued pattern of being hauled into court, wasting valuable time, ratepayer and taxpayer dollars and most important, the continued destruction of the Owens Valley environment. A Court imposed injuction turning off all pumps ,imposing daily fines most probably would result in the Green Book revisions and some implementation of the Water Agreement. This particular bit of the Green Book revision process that has been going on since 2006 could be resolved but may not benefit or insure future agreements. The Inyo County Water Department seems ready to resolve all issues in the best way, in good faith to their responsibilties in the Water Agreement. How ’bout you DWP. How ’bout you just getting it done just this one time. Take every opportunity to utilise these opportunities to evolve into new patterns of responsive and pro active management and stewardship. Don’t let anybody, any stakeholder continue to drag you kicking, screaming and pouting out of a court house into the next century. Come on DWP . Show me some wisdom of 100 years of being an institution .

  9. Outsider February 26, 2013 at 7:59 pm #

    “More than sixteen years ago”? Technically, true. 1991 is definitely more than 16 years ago…

    • Benett Kessler February 26, 2013 at 8:24 pm #

      You are right. It’s been 22 years, and the two sides did start operating under some of the ideas of the agreement
      even before 1991.


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