LADWP Calls on Great Basin Unified Air Pollution Control District to Honor Landmark Agreement
LOS ANGELES (July 14, 2022) — The Los Angeles Department of Water & Power (LADWP) staff briefed the Los Angeles Board of Water and Power Commissioners at their July 12th Board Meeting on the success of two decades of dust mitigation at Owens Lake. Achieving dust control compliance at the lake has come at a cost of more than $2.5 billion to LADWP ratepayers.
“It is jaw-dropping, the amount of money that we are spending on this enterprise, especially when we’ve already exceeded our goal of achieving more than 99% containment. Considering 40% of our ratepayers are economically disadvantaged, and in light of the money already spent, I think it is time for Great Basin to revisit its goals and articulate how it plans to uphold the agreement it made with LADWP in 2014. I know LADWP has held up its end,” said Cynthia McClain-Hill, President of the Board of Water and Power Commissioners.
The Owens Lake Dust Mitigation Program encompasses a 1,400 square mile area in California’s Eastern Sierra region and is the largest dust mitigation program in the United States. Originally constructed in 2000 to reduce airborne particulate matter across 48.6 square miles of the exposed dry lakebed, the program has become a collaboration with regional partners to meet goals for not only dust emissions, but also for managing habitat, protecting cultural and tribal resources, and using water efficiently.
In 2014, Great Basin and LADWP agreed on an approach to bring the area into attainment. This was a historic agreement over the implementation of dust control measures on Owens Lake. Following this agreement, Great Basin developed the U.S. EPA-approved 2016 State Implementation Plan, which established requirements for all parties as the guiding document for dust compliance in the Owens Valley Planning Area. The plan stated that there are no significant sources of windblown dust within the Owens Valley Planning Area outside the immediate area of the lake. Despite this statement and agreement, Great Basin has continued to search for off-lake sources. This poses a potential liability to LADWP ratepayers for costs that are not LADWP’s responsibility.
Over the life of the project, LADWP ratepayers have funded dust control measures at a cost in excess of $2.5 billion. Dust at the lakebed is now reasonably controlled, with dust 99.4% contained and emissions occurring only during severe windstorms and other exceptional weather events. Despite the high level of containment, the current plan requires LADWP to use a significant amount of water on dust control measures each year.
“In a year where we are using more water on dust mitigation at Owens Lake than we are importing for our ratepayers, issues at Owens Lake are a critical component to a sustainable water supply, not just for Angelenos, but for the entire State,” said Anselmo Collins, LADWP Senior Assistant General Manager of Water System. “We leave 60,000 acre-feet of water at Owens each year for dust mitigation. That is roughly the same amount of water the city of Long Beach, with almost 500,000 people, uses in an entire year.
LADWP will submit evidence demonstrating attainment to Great Basin that will enable the project to move into a new maintenance phase if Great Basin concurs. This new project phase would improve water conservation efforts and increase LADWP’s ability to implement new, more efficient dust control measures.
“This is a moment for LADWP, Great Basin, our local partners and the many workers who have been on the frontlines of this project to recognize the accomplishment of our long-term commitment at Owens Lake and cross the attainment finish line. But designating Owens Lake in attainment does not mean that LADWP would walk away from the region. We will continue to have a boots-on-the-ground presence and an active collaboration with Great Basin, but we will do so with a shared understanding of the state of the region and the hard work already done and with improved tools for conservation,” said Collins.
Click to view the Owens Lake presentation at the July 12 LADWP Commissioner’s Meeting.
Click for Board President Cynthia McClain-Hill’s public comment to Phillip Kiddoo, Great Basin Unified Air Pollution Control Officer.