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DWP not responsible for Keeler Dunes

July 1, 2013

Great Basin Unified Air Pollution Control District and the LADWP have reached an agreement for dust mitigation on the Keeler Dunes. As part of the agreement, the LADWP will pay Great Basin $10 million and release all liability for dune dust. Photo courtesy hydrobioars.com

Great Basin Unified Air Pollution Control District and the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power have reached an agreement on how to control dust on the Keeler Dunes and one of the last stretches of Owens Lake targeted for dust control.
An agreement that was approved this week by both the LADWP and Great Basin will allow Los Angeles to work around certain culturally-sensitive sites identified within the Phase 7a dust mitigation project. The LADWP and Great Basin will determine if and how dust will be mitigated in areas containing Native American artifacts at a later date.
The LADWP approved the agreement at a special meeting on Wednesday, June 26 and Great Basin approved it Thursday, June 27.
The agreement also relieves the LADWP of all obligations to mitigate dust impacts created by the Keeler Dunes, provided that the department provides the Great Basin with $10 million for an environmental impact analysis, design, permitting, construction, operation, maintenance, management, monitoring and other activities directly related to dust control on the dunes.
“This agreement expedites the control of health-impacting air pollution from the Keeler Dunes while acknowledging the importance of saving fresh water and protecting cultural resources,” Great Basin Air Pollution Control Officer Ted Schade said. “It also shows that Great Basin and LADWP can work together to acknowledge and balance each other’s needs.”
To meet water savings goals, the agreement allows the LADWP to reduce the thickness of its gravel-spreading, dust-control efforts and allows the DWP to begin implementing brine shallow flooding.
“We believe that today’s agreement represents a first step towards resolving more of the outstanding issues we face as we attempt to safeguard scarce water supplies while protecting air quality in the Owens Valley,” LADWP General Manager Ron Nichols said.
In regards to the Keeler Dunes, the agreement states that, once the $10 million payment has been made to Great Basin (no more than 90 days after the agreement is approved), “LADWP shall have no responsibility for the design, permitting, construction, operation, maintenance, management, monitoring and other activities directly and exclusively related to the Keeler Project for as long as dust controls are required.”
The agreement also modifies Phase 7a Stipulated Order for Abatement that Great Basin ordered in 2011.
Under the agreement, Great Basin has extended the LADWP’s deadline to complete dust mitigation in the 7a area from Dec. 31, 2013 to Dec. 31, 2015. Also, the LADWP’s Dec. 31, 2015 deadline for managed vegetation controls has been extended to Dec. 31, 2017.
The agreement also states that those deadlines are based on “timely availability of necessary leases from the State Lands (Commission) and of necessary permits from other agencies.” That means that if the permitting or approval process for the projects is held up by an agency other than the LADWP, the deadlines can be readjusted.
In the agreement, Great Basin also agrees to “remove” eligible cultural resource areas from Phase 7a. That means that the LADWP will not be required to do dust control in areas with identified cultural resources (about 328 acres) during work on Phase 7a. Those areas that are sensitive cultural resource sites will be moved to the newly created Phase 7b.
If the LADWP identifies any new culturally- sensitive sites while doing dust control on Phase 7a, the utility can have those areas added to the Phase 7b project.
How Phase 7b is handled will be determined at a later date. In a previous interview, Great Basin Air Pollution Control Officer Ted Schade said that there are a couple options for dealing with culturally-sensitive sites. Those options could include removal of artifacts, or selection of an alternative site for dust controls.
The agreement calls for the creation of a Cultural Resource Task Force comprised of LADWP, Great Basin, State Lands, State Historical Preservation Office and local tribal representatives. That group “will initially be charged to make recommendations to Great Basin and LADWP as to the best course of action and timing for the treatment of the initial Phase 7b areas,” the agreement states. “Such treatment could include whether particular areas should be permanently avoided, subject to Phase III cultural recovery or subject to some less intensive form of cultural recovery to protect cultural resources.”
The LADWP will be responsible for paying travel expenses and other costs to the CRTF group.
Fifth District Supervisor Matt Kingsley, who helped negotiate the terms of the agreement, said it is a win-win-win.
“This is a benefit for the rate payers of the city of L.A. because it will reduce water on the lake,” Kingsley said. “This will be a benefit for the residents of the Owens Valley because instead of litigating we are doing something to control dust on the lake and it is a benefit for local tribes because it outlines a way to deal with cultural resources on the lake.”
Kingsley added that the agreement “also sets a new standard for resolving issues between LADWP and Great Basin instead of litigating. That’s been one of my goals: get things done instead of paying lawyers.”

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