Outrage In Owens Valley A Century After L.A. BeganTaking Its Water

“It was just heartbreaking to monitor the death of this meadow and present the data to the decision-makers and have them just shrug,” said Manning. “It got to the point where it was hopeless.”
The county is now trying to hold DWP accountable for the transformation – so far, unsuccessfully. In arbitration, the agency claimed Inyo County’s monitoring process was flawed, making it impossible to determine whether change had occurred. This fall, arbitrators brought in by the two sides disagreed with that assessment. But the extent of the damage, and the cause, remain in dispute.

Lisa's leaks - 'Madness in the Magnolias'

Owens Valley Nik Barbieri, director of technical services with the Great Basin Unified Air Pollution Control District, surveys a portion of dried-up Owens Lake. Since 2001, the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power has spent $1.2 billion to control dust across 42 square miles of the lake.

By now, the story seems old. A young city, thirsty for water, deploys wealth, cunning and power to divert a river from a distant valley, safeguarding its future at the expense of others.

A century ago, Los Angeles did just that in the Owens Valley, a 75-mile-long, U-shaped cul-de-sac on the east side of the snow-capped Sierra, a place so scenic some called it an American Switzerland.

What happened next – the withering of the valley, the rise of the nation’s second-largest metropolis – has been recounted so often it is a part of western lore, a parable of the promise and peril of…

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