Owens Valley Committee » Issues


OVC was founded in 1983 to pressure Inyo County to fight for stronger terms in negotiations which eventually led to the signing of the Inyo-LA Long Term Water Agreement (LTWA) in 1991.  When the LTWA’s EIR was then found to be deficient, OVC was invited to be a “friend of the court” to try to remedy the EIR’s deficiencies.  New negotiations led to the signing, in 1997, of a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU).  As a party to this MOU, OVC has focused its attention on MOU implementation and enforcement, notably filing three lawsuits (in conjunction with the Sierra Club) which succeeded in compelling DWP to implement the Lower Owens River Project consistent with the terms of the MOU.

In 2014 OVC broadened its mission and added a vision statement:  OVC now seeks “just and sustainable management of land and water resources” and calls for the DWP to phase out its dependence on Owens Valley water while protecting open space and historic land uses.  Because there would be no reason for the DWP to own land in Owens Valley if it did not depend on Owens Valley water, OVC, in effect, calls for the DWP to leave the valley and end its colonial rule.  OVC is the only group in the Eastern Sierra calling, even implicitly, for the DWP’s departure.  The broadening of OVC’s mission was a recognition that existing problems in resource management are best understood as symptoms of the underlying injustice of colonial rule, and that until the political injustice is remedied, resource management problems will never be solved.

Below are links to discussions of some of the many land and water management issues in Owens Valley.  OVC has an interest in all these issues, even though it hasn’t necessarily taken formal positions in all of them.

Issue Discussions

Colonial Rule

It is no exaggeration to say Owens Valley is a colony of Los Angeles. The city owns nearly all land on the floor of Owens Valley and claims virtually all water rights. Owens Valley residents cannot vote in Los Angeles elections so there are no elected officials in Los Angeles

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Groundwater Management

In 2014 California passed a law regulating groundwater. It was intended to foster local control of groundwater resources and was based on the concept of “safe yield.” Given the colonial status of Owens Valley, it might be thought that this new law would have been welcomed in Owens Valley as

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Joint Management

One of the important features of the Inyo-LA Long Term Water Agreement (LTWA) is its provision for joint management. In theory, this gave Inyo County – the colony -- equal power with DWP – the colonial power -- and would seem to have been a major victory for the county.

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Mitigation Projects

The Inyo-LA Long Term Water Agreement (LTWA) and associated EIR and MOU call for numerous projects to mitigate impacts of DWP’s water gathering activities during the 19 years of litigation leading to the LTWA.  According to Inyo County Water Department's (ICWD’s) 2013-2014 Annual Report, there are approximately 49 mitigation projects. 

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Open Space

Extensive open space is one of the most striking features of Owens Valley.  Unobstructed views of the Sierra Nevada escarpment and the White/Inyo Mountains from the valley floor enhance the quality of life for residents and delight tourists from all over the world.  The scenery helps drive the county’s recreation-based

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Owens Lake

Los Angeles diverted Owens River into the LA Aqueduct in 1913, and by 1924 Owens Lake (formerly supplied by Owens River) was dry.  By the mid 1990’s the approximately 110 square mile lake bed had become the largest single source of PM10 Particle Matter pollution in the country. California lawmakers

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Surface Water Management

One of the main points of contention in the 19 years of litigation leading to the 1991 Inyo-LA Long Term Water Agreement (LTWA) was how much land DWP would irrigate.  DWP had already dried up thousands of acres of irrigated land since the early 1900’s and Inyo County wanted to

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Vegetation Management

The Inyo-LA Long Term Water Agreement (LTWA) doesn’t guarantee DWP a minimum volume of pumping, nor does it set a pumping ceiling.  DWP is allowed to pump every drop it can, provided it complies with its obligation to “avoid” certain impacts to vegetation relative to conditions as measured by DWP

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Victims and Saviors

The numerous problems with LTWA management (discussed in the issues pages) raise the question of why Inyo County residents aren’t taking more aggressive action to protect the valley.  Historically, residents have tried everything from civil disobedience (the occupation of the Alabama Gates) to violence (dynamiting the aqueduct) to litigation.  Since

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