With ongoing litigation tying up the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power’s mitigation work on Owens Lake, the utility is hoping to take the initiative and develop a long-term solution to dust blowing off the lake.
The LADWP issued a statement earlier this week telling members of the Owens Lake Master Plan Committee that it will begin working on a project design that would incorporate elements that it hopes will meet the needs and goals of each member agency.
The Owens Lake Master Plan Committee was created in 2010 to develop a “framework that identifies broadly supported goals and objectives to enhance the Owens lakebed,” the group’s mission statement says. The 31-member group includes representatives from Inyo County, local tribes, the LADWP, environmental groups, including the Audubon Society, Sierra Club, Owens Valley Committee and Bureau of Land Management.
The Master Plan is to focus on dust mitigation, habitat and wildlife, water efficiency methods and potential renewable energy development.
The Master Plan Committee worked together to draft a Master Plan that was released for review in December 2011.
That plan “blew up,” LADWP Director of Water Operations Marty Adams said Thursday. “Everybody just retreated to their original position.”
Since then, the group has continued to meet in an effort to create a mutually acceptable plan for management of the lake, but Adams said that has been slow going.
Last month, the LADWP issued a letter to the Master Plan Committee, outlining seven “must-haves in order to commit to a significant investment in money and resources to achieve a more sustainable and eco-friendly result at Owens Lake.”
Those must-haves include:
• Acceptance of Master Plan elements that protect or improve the habitat and public benefit goals within the areas where LADWP dust controls currently exist.
• Reduction in the amount of Los Angeles Aqueduct water applied to Owens Lake for dust mitigation by at least 50 percent to lessen L.A.’s need for water from other California sources.
• Lawfully-established limit of 45 square miles of dust controls that Los Angeles is responsible to construct and maintain.
• Approved new waterless dust control measures.
• Allowance to transition sufficient areas of the lakebed without penalties.
• Easement to other indisputable, permanent right to execute and maintain the lakebed according to the plan provisions.
• Allowance to utilize groundwater under the lakebed to achieve the full habitat goals.
“We suspect that like LADWP, other Owens Lake stakeholders may also have certain ideals associated with the Master Plan process that are fundamental to their interest and participation,” a letter from Adams to the Master Plan Committee states. “We certainly respect those core values of the groups you represent and hope that you will also understand the nature of LADWP’s fundamental concerns.”
Adams said Thursday the LADWP’s goal is to develop its own work plan for the Owens Lake, taking into consideration all the information and input that was provided by the Owen Lake Master Plan Committee. Adams said the goal is to have a workable project that meets everyone’s needs so work on long-term goals on the lake can begin.
“We aren’t trying to abandon the plan or the committee, but to use all that good work and come up with something that can get work started,” Adams said.
In his letter to the committee, Adams said, “we recognize that it may appear that the LADWP is abandoning the master planning process or perhaps ‘running off’ with he work of the group. In fact, we are trying to be realistic and deliver a real project in out lifetime.”
Adams said Thursday the LADWP will work over the next two weeks to develop a work plan, and present it to the Master Plan Committee for review and possible amendments.
Responses of key member agencies to LADWP’s statement were unavailable at press time.