LADWP: Releases Statement

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LADWP Remains Dedicated to Protecting the Environment in Mono County

LOS ANGELES, CA – The Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (LADWP) attended today’s Mono County Board of Supervisors meeting to participate in ongoing discussions surrounding the department’s water management practices and ranching leases in Mono County and has released the following statement by Clarence Martin, LADWP Aqueduct Manager:

“California’s new climate reality is making it increasingly difficult to capture enough water to meet our state’s diverse needs – and when faced with a deficit, we all must cut back. LADWP is reassessing its water management practices throughout the state and adapting policies to align with the state’s diminishing resource availability and increasingly stringent environmental regulations. LADWP’s proposed lease terms were a direct reflection of this new reality.

First and foremost, this is NOT a proposal to dewater or de-ranch Mono County. LADWP has continued operating this year as we have in prior years. Shortly after this year’s runoff was calculated, the ranchers were notified that they would receive 4,200 acre-feet this irrigation year – about the same amount that they received in 2016, following similar runoff conditions.

LADWP is currently diverting water to protect the Sage Grouse and their habitat.

The department has also partnered with local environmental organizations – including Audubon California, Eastern Sierra Audubon, Eastern Sierra Land Trust, U.S. Fish and Wildlife, and others – to establish a dedicated Sage Grouse working group. Because the Sage Grouse is not a legally protected species, this group will lead the charge on ensuring the long-term protection of their habitat. We appreciate Mono County’s participation in this group thus far and look forward to a continued partnership to protect this species.

Before making any changes to water management practices in Mono County, LADWP will complete a full and thorough Environmental Impact Report. The EIR process will evaluate the long-term amount of water needed to ensure that we continue to protect the environment in Long Valley.

  • This includes the Sage Grouse and their habitat.
  • It also includes the creeks, streams, fisheries and riparian habitats that will likely benefit from additional flows as a result of reduced diversions for artificial irrigation.

We encourage those who share LADWP’s concern for the environment to participate in this public process with us. Preparation for an EIR is just beginning, and LADWP expects to issue a formal notice signifying the start of the review process this fall.

We’re here today because, decades ago, free water was offered to a handful of ranchers when LADWP had surplus water that it couldn’t transport – that’s simply not the case today. There simply is no more surplus water available.

Climate change has changed the equation and forward thinking policies - From Governor Brown’s new long-term water conservation mandate to the City of Los Angeles and LADWP’s sustainability goals – are vital to protect the environment and ensure reliable water supplies.

Los Angeles currently leaves more than half of its historic LA Aqueduct water supply in Mono and Inyo counties for environmental preservation, while Los Angeles residents continue to pay more to use less.

We’re all sharing in the responsibility and making changes to adjust to California’s new climate reality and the associated volatility in our water supply, and we are asking the ranchers to do the same by exploring their available alternatives to receiving free water paid for by Los Angeles residents.

LADWP would have to spend about $18 million to replace the amount of water requested by the commercial ranchers and the lost hydropower it generates – an unacceptable cost burden of about $30 per family per year, on average.

While new leases are discussed and negotiated, we are continuing the same practice we have used in past years.  We evaluated the runoff, calculated the amount available for commercial ranching and notified our lessees.

LADWP and the ranchers maintain open lines of communications and we have made it clear that they should be able to continue leasing the department’s land. LADWP also remains committed to providing water to meet its environmental commitments in Mono County.

Once again, I want to reiterate that LADWP is committed to conducting a full environmental review of this matter.  We are currently drafting the initial study and expect to begin the formal EIR process in the Fall. Through the EIR process there will be an opportunity for all stakeholders to have their voices heard and their concerns addressed.”

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