How we started

In 1982, the Inyo County Board of Supervisors began closed meetings with the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (LADWP) to develop a groundwater management plan.

photo by Tom Heindel

Under the terms of the agreement, Inyo and LADWP would work together for five years on a joint management plan, Inyo would temporarily drop a groundwater ordinance lawsuit and its opposition to the acceptance of Los Angeles' groundwater pumping Environmental Impact Report, and Los Angeles would continue to pump groundwater. If Inyo and Los Angeles failed to agree on groundwater pumping, Los Angeles would resort to a pumping table that allowed the city to take three times as much water as the county had recommended in its own management plans.

No enforcement measures for the agreement were proposed, and recommendations of a citizenís advisory committee to the Inyo Water Commission were ignored. The terms of the agreement were drafted in a series of meetings closed to the public and then presented to Owens Valley residents shortly before the agreement was to be ratified.

Faced with an agreement with no legal teeth and no limits on pumping, members of the citizenís advisory committee and other concerned residents of Owens Valley --including Bill and Barbara Manning, Mary DeDecker, Vince Yoder, David Miller, Michael Prather, Father Christopher Kelley, and Kenny Scruggs--formed the Owens Valley Committee (OVC) in late 1983. The committee incorporated in early 1984 to avoid lawsuits against individuals. The first actions of OVC representatives (there were no official members) included publishing educational pamphlets dissecting the agreement, appearing and speaking at public meetings, conducting telephone surveys, writing letters to local newspapers, and publishing TV, radio, and newspaper ads about the 5-year water agreement and conditions in the Owens Valley.