July 13, 2017
Today’s Los Angeles Times includes an article entitled: LA Took their Water and Land A Century Ago, Now the Owens Valley is Fighting Back. While there were numerous misrepresentations of fact and lack of context in the article, we wanted to provide you with specific information regarding the state of the landfill, the County’s lease and condemnation action.
The City of Los Angeles originally purchased properties along the Owens River and Owens Valley floor to acquire water rights and to protect the watershed for water that is delivered to the City of Los Angeles from the Eastern Sierra watershed. The City has relied on this flow of reliable and high quality water for over a century. This water and watershed continues to need protection.
At the same time, LADWP does allow public access to over 75% of its lands in the Owens Valley for recreation. Additionally, it also leases some of its properties to private individuals and the county government. One of those properties is the Bishop-Sunland Landfill. This landfill, and others leased to them, are managed and operated by the County. Unfortunately, since 1993 Inyo County has received over 2,500 violations from the State of California for its poor landfill operations.
LADWP has concerns that the current management of the Bishop-Sunland Landfill, which is unlined and does not meet current regulatory standards, can negatively impact the watershed. Therefore, lease terms for the landfill were written to protect that land and the watershed. Though Inyo County agreed to those terms, it now seeks to take control of the property through condemnation and operate the landfill without oversight by LADWP.
Through its condemnation proceeding, Inyo County is also attempting to acquire the City of Los Angeles’ water rights, which is in conflict with the City Charter. The attempt to acquire LA’s water rights is not necessary as part of the landfill condemnation proceedings.
The landfill, and others operated by Inyo County on LADWP land, should be properly maintained and operated in a manner to protect the land and safety of the watershed. Inyo County needs to build a modern landfill that meets all current standards outside of the Owens River watershed. LADWP is ready to partner with the County to pursue this solution, as it will mutually benefit both the County and LADWP.
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