Water for ranch leases still questionable

CentennialRanchWhile there has been no help for water in the Bishop Creek drainage, questions also remain about leases for Department of Water and Power ranchers.

In late March, Inyo Water Director Bob Harrington wrote a letter to Department of Water and Power Manager Jim Yannotta to say that new ranch leases give less water and less control over water than the Long Term Water Agreement allows. At last word, Harrington had not received a reply from DWP.

The Water Agreement says that DWP will continue to provide water to irrigated leases as it was in the 1981-82 run-off year and that lease policies remain as they were from 1970 to 1990. The Inyo Water Department says DWP’s new leases violate both promises. In particular, LA would give itself unilateral power to reduce water supply to irrigated lands. Water Director Harrington said that reductions in irrigation on LA-owned land due to drought are allowable but would need to be agreed to by the Board of Supervisors. He said, “LA has not requested that the County agree to such a reduction.”

Over time, LADWP has provided 5 acre feet of water per acre of ranch land. The new leases say “up to” 5 acre feet for ranches and “up to” 3 acre feet per acre for mitigation pastures. So, there is no longer a guarantee of the previous 5 acre feet per acre. The new leases also say that during irrigation season, stockwater will not be provided concurrently with irrigation water as it has been for many years and that DWP might charge for stockwater.

Mr. Yannotta said in recent weeks that “revised ranch lease language is consistent with the Water Agreement and is consistent with the language used in ranch leases since the 1970s. “However,” he said, “concerns have been raised about revised lease language that is purely intended to avoid the waste of water and discourage the taking of excess stockwater as a supplementary irrigation resource.” Yannotta said LADWP is “taking those concerns into consideration to more clearly convey conformance with the Water Agreement and the 1991 EIR and to use both irrigation and stockwater in a beneficial manner and avoid the waste of water pursuant to the California Constitution and State Water Code.”

Again, Water Director Harrington said the lease language on water gives less water and less control over it than the Water Agreement demands. Not answering that question, Yannotta does say LA will take a lot less water down the Aqueduct this year. With the drought, he says LA will receive about 38,000 acre feet or about “15% of normal.” LA has other sources of water, which do, of course, cost more than Eastern Sierra water.

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Rick O'Brien
Rick O'Brien
8 years ago

Lake Mead is at it’s lowest point since it was built in the early 1930’s…

bishop rocks
bishop rocks
8 years ago

I read in the LA Times this morning that while voluntary water conservation efforts statewide are still inadequate, most coastal cities have conserved about 5% on average. Except in LA, where the fountains still flow and the landscaping is still maintained. Water usage there has increased 1% to 4%. This… Read more »

Clyde Allan
Clyde Allan
8 years ago

Does anyone expect anything from the DWP. They delay any action against them, defend with the deepest of pockets with any legal means possible. They only want all the water they can get from the Owens Valley. They delay transfer of rights which cancel sales of property or business rights… Read more »

philip anaya
philip anaya
8 years ago

The effect of the DWP operations in the Owens Valley is worse than any 3rd year drought Nature can throw at us .Times like these we need special, evolved, enlightened management individuals, decisions and talent and Jim Yannotta has not provided any solutions for the Valley . He has provided… Read more »

Daris
Daris
8 years ago
Reply to  philip anaya

Thank You Phil for telling it like it is and for speaking up for the Owens Valley. Now if only our Supervisors, the Water Department, all the Owens Valley Tribes (they have the Federal Government) and all those concerned citizens of Owens Valley would shout loud enough maybe it will… Read more »

Rob
Rob
8 years ago

They will take Eastern Sierra water down to the last drop, then they’ll try to take more.

Good luck

Buck Turgidson
Buck Turgidson
8 years ago

I would appreciate Mr. Yannotta giving an example of how water is wasted in the Owens Valley.

Waxlips
Waxlips
8 years ago

Call them the fortunate ones: Nearly 4,000 California companies, farms and others are allowed to use free water with little oversight when the state is so bone dry that deliveries to nearly everyone else have been severely slashed. Their special status dates back to claims made more than a century… Read more »

Trouble
Trouble
8 years ago

Mr. Harrington, at some point you have to stand up for the people you are supposed to repersent. Inyo County residents are again drilling wells as we speak and you appear to turn a blind eye to this issue. Like it or not, you are the one representing the Valley… Read more »

Philip Anaya
Philip Anaya
8 years ago

Hate to be reminded that the Bishop Creek issues have not been resolved .The latest DWP Northern District Daily Report has Bishop Creek below plant 6 at 108 cfs on July 1st . The Ranchers need to receive their water and Leases that comply with the LTWA. Inyo County has… Read more »