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Water Letter 4-8-13

Water Letter 4-8-13

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Published by Mary Roper
Owens Valley Water Issues
Owens Valley Water Issues

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Published by: Mary Roper on Apr 08, 2013
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04/08/2013

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April 7, 2013Dear Citizens of Inyo County,On April 2, 2013 Mr. Martin Adams of the Los Angeles Department of Water andPower addressed the Inyo County Board of Supervisors about the Owens Lake Master Plan, which was a collaborative process that had been underway for several years, andinvolved people representing many interests and concerns about the Lake.
DWP’s stated
goals are to reduce aqueduct water usage on the Lake by 50%, maintain the current levelof dust mitigation (instead of completing the dust mitigation as defined by the Air Pollution Control District), and to retain some habitat that has been created by water- based dust control measures. In order to do this, they have unilaterally decided to createtheir own plan with
a list of “must haves”, including an easement to have permanent
control of the lakebed, and the right to pump water from under the lakebed.LADWP acts like they are in charge, and have the authority to take these blanketactions. The facts are:
 
DWP must complete the dust cleanup prescribed by the Air Pollution Control
District. The methods don’t need to involve water, as long as they are approved.
 
The People of the State of California own the lakebed and all the water under thelakebed, and this real property is managed by the State Lands Commission.
 
Pumping from under the Lake will affect seeps and springs on the edges of theLake, as shown by the modeling done by engineering firm Montgomery Watsonand Harza. They di
dn’t seem to know whether Crystal Geyser’s wells would be
affected.
 
Dust mitigation on the Lake is not related to the separate requirements of the 1991EIR and Long Term Water Agreement approved by the Court of Appeals on June13, 1997. These requirements protect the Owens Valley environment.Mr. Adams characterized Owens Valley water as only one piece in the thickeningCalifornia water supply game, saying that increasing export of our water will decrease the
City’s
need for water from the Sacramento Delta. This attempt to create a false sense of duty toward the rest of the State is dismantled by logic.The Owens Valley has already sacrificed much of its environmental andeconomic health for Los Angeles. We are a resource colony and have been for a hundredyears. There is no need for us to feel an obligation to the rest of California. Our duty is
to the remaining plants, animals and people that live in Inyo County. We’ve done
enough.And most importantly, no amount of water from the Delta or anywhere else willsuffice for the future until Los Angeles deals with growth. It is the height of irresponsibility to continue to approve developments that increase the demand for water anywhere in the Southland. It is a desert. In the face of climate change, with thereduction of the Sierra snowpack, it is imperative that the State legislators reform local planning to cut the stranglehold developers have had
on California’s planning process
.Until that is done, any water wheeling and dealing is grasping at straws.
 
 The City of Los Angeles DWP has also masterfully employed the divide andconquer technique; pitting interest groups against each other through this Owens LakePlanning process.
Always implied, never stated, is that aqueduct water “freed up” from
use on Owens Lake can remain in the Owens Valley for ranches and other uses.Ranching and stock water has been intentionally and punitively reduced in the lastseveral years, as the City has attempted to gain support for their Owens Lake position.They ca
n’t do that unilaterally, and here is why.
Ranch lessees are protected severalways by the 1991 EIR and Water Agreement.
First
, the Agreement provides that,
Type E Vegetation Classification
(Lands supplied with water.) These lands will be supplied with water and will bemanaged to avoid causing significant decreases and changes in vegetation fromvegetation conditions which existed on such lands during the 1981-82 runoff 
year……
Another primary goal is to avoid significant decreases in recreational usesand wildlife habitats that in the past have been dependent on water supplied by theDepartment.
1
 
These lands CANNOT be converted to less water-dependent vegetation. LA may arguethat these lands were mapped, and that their reductions in irrigation comply with themapping. That process was not precise, as a study of the maps accompanying the Water Agreement will easily show. Plus, the
EIR states, “
Should it be determined, throughongoing monitoring, studies or analysis, that vegetation is incorrectly classified, it will be
reclassified as appropriate.”
 
Also, even if some of the lands recently cut off fromirrigation by LA are incorrectly mapped as different types than Type E, it is not permittedin the Water Agreement and EIR to convert to a drier type of vegetation.
 
Further, lands that were supplied with water in the 1981-82 runoff year are included inType E vegetation definition, mapping or no mapping, as this language in the EIR indicates,
Under the Agreement, LADWP must continue to provide enough water for Los Angeles-ownedlands in Inyo County in an amount sufficient to continue the water-related uses of such lands thatwere in effect during the 1981-82 runoff year. LADWP must continue to provide water to LosAngeles-owned lands in the Olancha-Cartago area such that the lands that have received water inthe past will continue to receive water.Lands to be supplied with water will be managed so as to avoid causing significant decreases andchanges in vegetation from conditions that existed on such lands during the 1981-82 runoff year 
….
 The Agreement also provides that significant decreases in recreational uses and wildlife habitatson such lands (which in the past have been dependent on water supplied by LADWP) are to beavoided.
2
 
In dry years, the
Technical Group has to analyze the conditions, and “reasonablereductions” can only be implemented if approved
 by the Supervisors and LA, through theStanding Committee. In summary, if it was watered in 1981-82, it should be receivingwater today.
Second
, the 1991 EIR specifies 5 acre feet for irrigated lands, not 3 acre feet as DWPdoes when they put in sprinklers.
3
Why is this important? Sprinklers deliver water only
1
Inyo/Los Angeles Long Term Water Agreement. Sec IV (A).
2
Inyo/Los Angeles 1991 EIR. pg. 5-16 and 5-17
3
1991 EIR. pg. 14-15
 
to the area of production, not ditch edges, or areas around the field as flood irrigationdoes. Trees and shrubs grow along ditches creating places for animals to feed and takeshelter. Runoff water is NOT wasted. It goes beyond the production area to nurtureadditional plants and animals, and grass for livestock. Watch out, as the DWP told the
Supervisors that they will be “working with” the ranchers to implement water 
conservation on the leases!
Third,
LA is prohibited from implementing changes in surface water management, if such changes result in a significant effect on the environment. Obviously, changingirrigation practices from flood irrigation to sprinklers, or cutting back irrigation to Type Elands results in vegetation changes. This is happening incrementally throughout the
Valley. Is this “significant” in the meaning
of the Agreement and EIR? Absolutely.This is the language in the Agreement regarding whether an effect is
“significant”
,
Determine…w
hether effects of the decrease, change, or effect are limited, but the incrementaleffects are substantial when viewed in connection with decreases or changes in other areas that are attributable to groundwater pumping or to changes in surface water management practices by the Department;
4
 
And here is how the 1991 EIR addresses the issue of flowing wells and springs;
Other Vegetation
Certain areas that contain vegetation of significant environmental value are not shown on themanagement maps. These areas will be identified by the Technical Group for monitoring purposes. Such areas may include riparian vegetation dependent on springs and flowing wells,stands of willows and cottonwood trees, and areas with rare or endangered species. If, throughfield observation, monitoring, and other evaluations, it is determined that groundwater pumping or changes in surface water management practices has resulted in severe stress that could cause asignificant decrease or change in this vegetation, such action will be taken as is feasible andnecessary to prevent significant impacts and to reduce any impacts to a level that is notsignificant.
5
 
The incremental changes that LA is implementing throughout the Valley include:
 
reductions in irrigation and stock water,
 
 prevention of tail water runoff,
 
conversion to sprinklers,
 
thinning of trees and reduction of water to the town tree lots,
 
conversion of the Lone Pine Park stream to a recirculating water feature, and,
 
deeply incising artesian well outflows to drop the water table which kills water dependent plants and animals, and makes the water flow straight to the aqueductwithout any environmental benefits.There are probably other actions going on, hard to monitor because of thevastness of the Valley. Taken together, these changes are more than significant, they are
an enormous impact to the Valley’s
 plant and animal diversity, since water is the keyelement.The reductions in irrigation water are destructive not only to the naturalenvironment, but economically disruptive to the agricultural community. Ranchers and
farmers are important contributors to Inyo County’s
economy, as well as stewards of theland. Despite the promises of the EIR and Agreement, the ranchers and farmers are
4
LTWA. Sec. IV(B)
5
1991 EIR. pg 5-5

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