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Manzanar and Water Rights

Contrary to the opinions put forth by columnist Robert A. Jones (“The Big Stall at Manzanar,” Aug. 14), the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (DWP) fully supports the establishment of a national historic site at Manzanar as a remembrance of the illegal internment of Americans of Japanese ancestry during World War II. This is consistent with DWP’s ongoing support of the Manzanar Committee, which includes assistance with the committee members’ annual pilgrimage to the site.

The DWP is currently working with members of Congress and their staffs to secure amendments to the legislation establishing the Manzanar historic site. This effort is in accordance with a recently adopted City Council resolution requesting the DWP to cooperate with the federal government to establish the site, while maintaining full protection of the city’s water supply. The amendments we are seeking are designed to provide protection from interference in the DWP’s water-gathering operations by the federal government or by third parties seeking to use the legislation as a legal basis for challenging Los Angeles’ water operations. Given the current language in the bill, such challenges could occur.

Moreover, this legislation comes at a critical time because, after decades of controversy, Los Angeles has developed a long-term cooperative agreement with Inyo County including a detailed plan for managing water resources. The lands at Manzanar, and most of the lands in the Owens Valley, were purchased by Los Angeles early in this century specifically for water supply purposes. This region supplies 70% of the city’s water supply during normal years. Any loss of the city’s water supply from there would have to be made up elsewhere.

While we support the national historic site, the water supply issue is so important to the economic viability and quality of life in Los Angeles that without adequate protection we will be unable to transfer the property to the federal government.

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If appropriate amendments cannot be developed, we are prepared to establish a non-federal historic site at Manzanar comparable to the federal proposal.

MICHAEL J. GAGE

President, DWP


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