LOS ANGELES (April 8, 2022) – The City of Los Angeles, acting by and through its Department of Water and Power (LADWP), filed a motion Wednesday against the Great Basin Unified Air Pollution Control District (Great Basin) to ensure the protection of significant cultural resources on the Owens Lake playa. The motion is in response to a July 21, 2021, Great Basin Order (and subsequent order fining more than $500,000 in penalties) directing LADWP to begin dust mitigation on an artifact-dense cultural resource site known as Sibi Patsiata-wae-tü Cultural Resource located on the playa. This Order violates both Great Basin’s own regulations and the sovereignty of at least one Native American Tribe
Great Basin’s violation of its own regulations, coupled with public objections – including those from the Fort Independence Tribe of Paiute Indians, who stated that “the Tribe’s concerns, as a sovereign nation, were disenfranchised,” by the Order – forced LADWP to seek legal action. LADWP’s motion requests that the California Superior Court immediately instruct Great Basin to rescind its order, which is both culturally insensitive and in legal violation of the Owens Lake 2014 Stipulated Judgement and 2016 State Implementation Plan.
Anselmo Collins, LADWP Senior Assistant General Manager – Water System, offered the following statement on the lawsuit:
“In issuing this Order, Great Basin broke a promise that it made to the public, regulators, LADWP, and the Fort Independence Tribe of Paiute Indians that it would regulate fairly, in accordance with scientific evidence, and with respect for culturally significant land. While we are disappointed this issue could not be resolved outside the courts, LADWP is dedicated to finding a solution to protect the Native American Cultural Resource Area at Owens Lake, and we’re hopeful that Great Basin will join us back at the table to achieve a practical, legal and respectful approach to attainment in the Owens Valley.”
- In 2014, Great Basin and LADWP settled on an agreed-upon approach to bring the Owens Valley Planning Area (OVPA) into attainment. Following this agreement, Great Basin developed the 2016 State Implementation Plan (SIP) as the guiding document for dust compliance at the lake. Great Basin’s July 2021 Order legally violates both of these documents:
- The 2016 SIP stated the OVPA would reach attainment without requiring dust mitigation infrastructure on culturally sensitive areas unless those areas were proven emissive. No such proof has been provided.
- Additionally, because of the sensitivity of the cultural areas, the SIP states that any work on the Sibi Patsiata-wae-tü Cultural Resource area was required to be a Best Available Control Measures (BACM) project – this includes gravel, vegetation, and shallow flood. However, the July 2021 Order directs LADWP to begin a non-BACM project.
- All work on cultural resource sites requires the support of all five tribes. The July 2021 Order was strongly opposed by at least one.
- Lastly, Great Basin’s Order ignores their own Clean Air Act attainment strategy that predicted that Cultural Resource Areas would not be emissive, which undermines the historic settlement agreement between Great Basin and Los Angeles.
- LADWP is dedicated to bringing the OVPA into attainment, demonstrated by our $2.5 billion investment and 99.2% reduction in emissions from the lakebed, however, we will only do so in a legal manner that includes the support from all five tribes.