Your editorial ("Halt the Decline at Mono Lake," June 17) urges Los Angeles to discontinue the diversion of water from the Mono Basin because Los Angeles "never will win its legal battle" over Mono Basin water rights.
I believe the issue surrounding Los Angeles' water rights in Mono Basin should not be viewed as one of winning or losing a legal battle, but rather of seeking an equitable balance between two competing interests, the lake's ecosystem versus the water supply needs of the people of Los Angeles.
The fact that the controversy has entered its 11th year is an indication of the complex nature of the issues surrounding this case.
Just recently, the city presented to the court a proposal that would assist in developing the necessary data to allow a determination of the safe minimum level for the lake. We feel confident that once a safe minimum level is identified, the court will finally have a sound and rational basis for striking the reasonable public trust balance called for by the state Supreme Court.
Arbitrarily reducing the city's water diversions by 63,000 acre-feet over the next year, as endorsed by The Times, would require obtaining replacement water and energy supplies at a cost to rate payers of more than $22 million.
Over the foreseeable future, replacement water (enough to meet the needs of 300,000 people) would be purchased from MWD and would result in increased diversions from the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, raising environmental and water quality questions that must also be considered.
Currently, the city's representatives are working with Assemblyman Phillip Isenberg (D-Sacramento) and others in Sacramento to seek state funding to assist in financing the replacement water and power resulting from reduced diversions from Mono Basin. We agree with The Times that the state and federal governments should share in the financial responsibility of providing replacement water and power supplies.
RICK J. CARUSO
Department of Water and Power