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Owens Valley Water Accord

Abraham Hoffman (“Closing a Chapter in the City’s Sinful Water History,” Commentary, July 20) believes the water wars with the Owens Valley are over. Wrong, Mr. Hoffman.

The Los Angeles Department of Water and Power has requested that the EPA declare the Mono Basin a “clean air attainment area,” based on air quality at the Simis ranch. The problem is that experts predicted that the Simis ranch site would recover more quickly than the rest of the basin. Claiming that this site is representative of the whole basin is a fraud. Obviously the DWP hopes to stop the filling of Mono Lake before reaching the agreed level of 6,932 feet, using this “clean air attainment area” designation as an excuse.

Are we paranoid about the DWP? I think not. DWP lost in court, but it still has a lot of those lawyers on staff. DWP is using distorted data. And, in a recent press conference an official of the DWP said that if they need more water from the Mono Basin, they will just “go back to the Water Board and ask for it.”

Ignore the lessons of “Chinatown” and “Cadillac Desert” at your peril.

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CHARLES G. BRAGG JR.

Bay Audubon Society

Santa Monica

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A little-appreciated fact about the Owens Lake dust puzzle is that the DWP really did not dry up the lake. The DWP kept it that way. Owens Valley farmers had it just about dry. The status of the lake today would be most interesting if the DWP had never been in the picture.

The lake was about 80% empty when the city started pumping water in 1913. The farmers of Owens Valley were on a water-use course that would have completely dried the lake in about the same time the city did.

The DWP should be congratulated for assuming responsibility for the problem. The California State Lands Commission is the owner of most of the dry lake: Only a very small portion is owned by the DWP.

ARTHUR WALLACE

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Professor Emeritus, UCLA

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The Times should have been more militant in its editorial (“Luck for Owens Lake at Last,” July 17), on the Owens Lake pollution solution. This is a paltry and pitiful compromise that forces the nearly 40,000 residents in the Owens Valley to continue sucking giant, swirling funnel clouds of white dust loaded with tons of arsenic and other toxic metals into their lungs for at least eight more years.

Last year the Great Basin air district ordered Los Angeles to treat, by 2001, 35 square miles of the 110-square-mile lake bed at a cost of $300 million. Los Angeles caused this problem, it should be responsible for correcting it with all deliberate speed. Complying with this order will ensure that the Clean Air Act’s deadline of 2006 would be met. Now because of this compromise it becomes a wait-and-see game with the health of the Owens Valley residents at stake.

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ROBERT C. PIKE

Canyon Country


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