PUBLIC AFFAIRS CLIPSHEET
ME TRCPLITAN WA TER DISTRICT 7r SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA
PUBLICATION Los Angeles Times
DATE December 18, 1996
Alternative to Water Plan Sought
Environment: Los Angeles leaders say
Owens Valley proposal to prevent dust
storms is too severe.
By MARLA CONE andJODI WILGOREN
TIMES STAFF WRITERS
Criticizing as extreme a $70-million project that would
require Los Angeles to give up a sizable portion of its
valuable water, city leaders vowed Tuesday to draft a
more viable solution to stop severe
dust storms created by the city's
draining of Owens Lake in the
"The mayor is committed to
addressing legitimate health im-
Spacts in the Owens #alley, but we
have to do that in a cost-effective
and feasible manner," said Christo-
pher O'Donnell, who is Mayor
Richard Riordan's director of
budget and strategic planning.
"The mayor is very hopeful that
the city can reach an amicable
resolution. We don't see it as
drawing a line in the sand yet." Lake crust, which
On Monday, an Owens Valley
pollution board voted unanimously
to endorse a plan that would force Los Angeles to return
13% of its Owens River aqueduct water to Owens Lake,
about 14 million gallons a day. After analyzing the
environmental effects, the board will vote in May to adopt
a final version of the project.
The city's diversion of the Owens River, which began in
1913, has left the sprawling playa covered with a thick
crust of salt crystals. When winds from the Sierra whip
through, tons of fine powder drape'the Owens Valley
About 40,00 people from Ridgecrest
occasionallybreathe unhealthful dii;i tT
which can pierce deep into the lungs, triggering
tory problems such as asthma attacks. The salt'
also contains traces of hazardous substances, incu
lead and arsenic. Doctors in the area say their offi .
emergency rooms fill up with sick people wheniint
immense dust clouds blow off the
Drafted after 14 years of study-
ing various options, the solution
endorsed by the Great Basin Air
Pollution Control District woild
make Los Angeles cover 35 squai
miles of the dustiest portion of the:
lake with a mix of shallow water,
gravel and irrigated salt grasss:
On Tuesday, several Los Angeles
City Council members balked at
the plan, which would force the
city to spend $23 million a year to
replace the water and raise water
breaks into dust. rates about 9%. But they said the
two regions, which are nearly 2(0
miles apart, should compromii
rather than battle it out in court.
"There are very good reasons why people in the Owens
Valley are frustrated with the city of Los Angeles," said
Councilwoman Ruth Galanter, who heads a committee
that oversees the Department of Water and Power. "What
Please see WATER, A32
PUBLIC AFFAIRS CLIPSHEET
ME M i'LITAN WATER DISTRICT F SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA PUBLICATION Los Angeles Times
DATE December 18, 1996 2/2
we're trying to do is demonstrate
that the modern DWP is environ-
mentally sensitive. The question is:
Can we work out a solution that is
economically good for the citizens
of Los Angeles and the citizens of
Owens Valley? It's an answer that
will have to be worked out jointly."
Councilman Mike Feuer agreed
that it is unacceptable to ask Los
Angeles to pay $70 million to fix
Owens Lake, but equally unrealis-
tic to expect residents there to
continue suffering health problems
because of the city's unquenchable
S"The city of Los Angeles does
have some historic responsibility,"
he said. "There has to be a much
deeper spirit of cooperation ... to
develop an approach that is much
less costly and much more mutu-
DWP officials have said they
will not give up any water to
irrigate Owens Lake, although
they have not come up with any
alternatives to curb the air pollu-
tion. Instead, the DWP has recom-
mended more research.
Although city leaders were talk-
ing Tuesday about seeking a com-
promise, DWP officials have taken
a hard-line approach on the issue.
DWP officials told the Owens
Valley board Monday that it is the
"unequivocal position of the city
and the department" that it will
not give up water to irrigate Owens
Lake. The DWP has said it is
willing to work on finding another
solution to curb the air pollution,
but it has not come up with any
alternatives and instead hasg'rec-"
ommended more research'tliat
could last several years. '- -
DWP Assistant General Man-
ager James Wickser called the dust
storms a "very minor health prob-
lem and aesthetic problem" for
people in the Owens Valley and
said the plan is far too expensive
and technically unproved.
Sources at City Hall, however,
said Riordan prefers to avoid a long
legal dispute with the Owens Val-
ley or the state Air Resources
Board, which has ultimate author-
ity to enforce the pollution project.
In an effort to reach a consensus,
they said, talks with the Owens
Valley will now include top city
aides and council members beyond
The city of Los Angeles has only
a few months to reach an agree-
ment because it faces a key federal
deadline. Under the Clean Air Act,
all states must approve a plan to
clean up particulate pollution in
1997 and meet clean-air standards
by 2001, or the U.S. Environmental
Protection Agency can impose so-
lutions of its own.
The project would take at least
five years to complete, so the DWP
would have to begin construction
at Owens Lake next year to meet
the 2001 deadline.
"What we'd like to see is the city
saying, 'Let's get going on this noT'
and maybe down the road we'l.
find a way to use less water," sii;
Ted Schade, projectsmaae
the Great Basin agency. 'a.i
date is to get this prdblet
2001. [Los Angeles'hatf
the problem. There i~flo'wa .
The Owens Valley water war
dates back almost 100 years, and!
Los Angeles has gone. to .great
lengths to safeguard its aqueduct
water, which is the city's che
water source by far.
Although it was leial the t
the city's water grab in 1906 was a
scandalous affair marked by bribes
and collusion, and since then many
Owens Valley officials have said
Los Angeles should pay for leaving
its natural resources and economy
The Clean Air Act and state law
give the small Eastern Sierra.pol-
lution board-which ia'gover
by six county supervisor i .
town council member-Wt '
dous power over the nation's e"'
The board can require Los An-
geles to "undertake reasonable
measures" to control the pollution
at Owens Lake.