12/18/2003 Inyo County approves tentative settlement of LORP litigation
Press release, County of Inyo county counsel

The Inyo County Board of Supervisors and the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (LADWP) Board of Water and Power Commissioners respectively approved a proposed settlement for litigation over the Lower Owens River Project December 16 and December 17.

Under the terms of a 1991 Memorandum of Understanding (MOU), the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (LADWP) was required to have established a 40 cfs base flow in the Lower Owens River by June 2003. The MOU deadline passed without the commencement of the base flow. In addition, LADWP has not completed many of its other obligations under the MOU. Past efforts to secure the performance of these obligations have been unsuccessful.

The Sierra Club and the Owens Valley Committee filed a lawsuit September 26, 2003 that sought to have the Inyo County Superior Court set enforceable dates for the establishment of baseflows in the river and for completion of other MOU obligations. On December 4, 2003, the California Department of Fish and Game and the California State Lands Commission filed a similar lawsuit.

For several years, there has been disagreement over whether a pump station to be constructed as part of the Lower Owens River Project can be as large as 150 cfs, as proposed by LADWP, or is limited to 50 cfs by the MOU and 1991 Water Agreement. During this time, discussions concerning a settlement of the issue have been conducted without a resolution.

With the assistance of the judge assigned to the litigation, the Honorable Edward Denton, the attorneys for the parties to the litigation and for the County drafted a proposed settlement agreement. The key provisions of the proposed agreement are outlined below. Under the proposed agreement, all of the provisions will be enforceable orders of the Court.

LADWP will construct a "stand alone" (non expandable) pump station with a capacity of 50 cfs.
The final environmental documents addressing the Lower Owens River Project (LORP) must be completed by next June (2004).
Provided that permits necessary to conduct work preparatory to releasing flows into the river are issued as expected, water will resume flowing in approximately one year throughout the full 60 mile reach of the river from which the water was diverted to Los Angeles in 1913.
Flows will be increased in the river over several months beginning in the fall of 2005 until 40 cfs base flows have been established.
LADWP will provide up to $1.5 million to match grant funds obtained by the County to continue the County’s salt cedar control program in the LORP area.
Deadlines are set for the completion of the outstanding MOU commitments.

It is expected that the Sierra Club, the Owens Valley Committee, the California Department of Fish and Game, and the California State Lands Commission will consider approval of the proposed settlement by the middle of next month. If all the parties approve the proposed settlement, it will be submitted to the Inyo County Superior Court together with a request that it become an order of the Court.

Copies of the proposed agreement are available to the public by contacting the Inyo County Water Department at 163 May Street, Bishop, California (760-872-1168).
Contacts:  Inyo County Water Department  Phone: 760-872-1168