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L.A. City Council declares 2013 ‘Year of the Aqueduct’

January 22, 2013

In celebration of the 100-year anniversary of the completion of what officials call a 200-plus mile “engineering marvel,” L.A. has declared 2013 to be “The Year of the Aqueduct.” Above, construction crews work on the aqueduct in the Cottonwood Creek area between Olancha and Lone Pine about 100 years ago. Photo courtesy Eastern California Museum/County of Inyo

Statewide this year, residents, organizations and public entities are recognizing the 100-year anniversary of the completion of the Los Angeles Aqueduct, the engineering feat that transports the Owens Valley’s water to Los Angeles.
In addition to a number of projects and events taking place locally, City of L.A. leaders have declared 2013 “The Year of the Los Angeles Aqueduct.”
The declaration came in the form of a Proclamation approved by the L.A. City Council last Friday. It was presented by Councilmember Jose Huizar along with Councilmember Tom LaBonge.
Construction on the aqueduct began in 1908 with a budget of $24.5 million. With 5,000 workers employed for its construction, the L.A. Aqueduct was completed Nov. 5, 1913.
The aqueduct consists of 223 miles of 12-foot diameter steel pipe, 120 miles of railroad track, two hydroelectric plants, 170 miles of power lines, 240 miles of telephone line, a cement plant and 500 miles of roads.
Over the course of its century-long history, the now 419-mile aqueduct has been contested as an environmental detriment, illegally diverted and even blown up, but it’s also been heralded as one of the greatest engineering feats of its time.
Today, the L.A. Aqueduct still provides about half of the water needed for the city’s 4 million residents.
The L.A. City Council’s declaration calls the completion of the L.A. Aqueduct 100 years ago “a significant historical event that led to the growth and prosperity of Los Angeles and Southern California, helped spur an economy that today rivals many nations’ and supports a distinct culture synonymous with invention, creativity and entrepreneurship.”
“The Los Angeles Aqueduct is a critical reason the City of Los Angeles was able to expand from a sparsely populated region to the second-largest city in the United States and a thriving metropolis,” said Councilmember Huizar, Energy and the Environment Committee chair. “The L.A. Aqueduct’s importance continues to this day and the City of Los Angeles is proud to recognize this engineering marvel.”
Locally, the Eastern California Museum, Inyo County Board of Supervisors and residents in the private sector are finding their own ways to commemorate the anniversary of the aqueduct’s museum.
Eastern California Museum in Independence will be presenting an aqueduct photo exhibit from March to the end of the year.
The exhibit will tell the story of the construction of the 200-plus mile project.
According to Museum Director Jon Klusmire, many of the photos included in the exhibit will be displayed publicly for the first time.
The museum is also celebrating the completion of the Aqueduct by dedicating its 2013 calendar to the project. The calendar features more than a dozen historic photos of the aqueduct’s construction.
U.C. Berkeley’s Jenna Cavelle, who is currently living in Bishop, has been working on her documentary, “PAYA: The Untold Story of the L.A.-Owens Valley Water War” for the past year-and-a-half, and is hoping to make it available to the public later this year.
Rather than focusing on the aqueduct, Cavelle said her project aims to go back even farther, telling the story of the Owens Valley’s indigenous people and how they utilized the Eastern Sierra runoff before white settlers came to the area, and how the construction of the aqueduct impacted their way of life.
Students from Cal Poly Pomona teamed up with residents, the LADWP and others last October to begin work on a centennial project that they say will shed light on the construction, benefits and impacts the pipeline has had on the Owens Valley and Los Angeles as well as all parts in between.
An exhibit telling the aqueduct story is scheduled to roll out before the Nov. 5 anniversary of the aqueduct’s completion.
“The story of Los Angeles is the story of water, and Angelenos will keep on writing it for centuries to come, thanks to this aqueduct,” Councilmember LaBonge said Friday. “The entirely gravity-fed Los Angeles Aqueduct remains one of the engineering marvels of modern times, and to this day continues to supply water through effective and responsible management by the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power.”
James B. McDaniel, senior assistant general manager of the LADWP Water System, was in attendance when the council considered the proclamation to unveil the Department’s plans for the Centennial celebration, called “L.A. Aqueduct Centennial: Our Legacy, Our Future,” and to describe the events, activities and public awareness campaign planned for the year.
“The enduring legacy of the Los Angeles Aqueduct is a source of immense pride at LADWP, and its stewardship is what we do unfailingly each and every day,” he said. “On behalf of the men and women who help operate a system that supplies 600 million gallons of drinking water a day, and the countless others who built the aqueduct or worked for the Water System in the last century, we thank the Mayor and Council for its recognition and appreciation.”
Also on hand was Christine Mulholland, great-granddaughter of aqueduct engineer William Mulholland.
“Few times in the history of Los Angeles has there been such a reason to celebrate the feats and accomplishments of our ancestors. That the Los Angeles Aqueduct, one of the modern wonders of the world of engineering, continues to bring fresh, clean water to the people of L.A. is a tribute to my great-grandfather, William Mulholland, and all the people who built, and now continue to maintain, the system,” she said.
The Los Angeles Aqueduct Centennial will include special activities and events, a public awareness campaign and a celebration on Nov. 5 to mark 100 years to the day when a crowd of 40,000 gathered at the northeast end of the San Fernando Valley to witness the first flow of water down the Cascades and to hear Mulholland’s immortal words: “There it is. Take it.”

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