6/24/2004 Correction: not necessarily a Final Environmental Impact Statement
A previous news item on the Owens Valley Committee web site ("LADWP releases LORP report," 6/23/04) labeled an LADWP report as a Lower Owens River Project Final Environmental Impact Report/Statement (LORP FEIR/S). In fact, although the LADWP-titled "Final Environmental Impact Report & Environmental Impact Statement" listed the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency as the "NEPA Lead Agency" and the Inyo County Water Department as the "CEQA Responsible Agency," the report was completed and released with neither final input or final approval from either agency.

Although Los Angeles Mayor James Hahn said last December that an agreement that established new deadlines for the LORP signaled "a new spirit of cooperation," this May LADWP informed both Inyo County and the EPA that it would be completing the Final Environmental Impact Report and Statement for the LORP alone. In a June 1 press release retroactively explaining the decision, Jerry Gewe, chief operating officer of LADWP's water system, said LADWP decided to complete the report by itself in order to meet court-ordered deadlines.

"As most of us know, it is a much more time-consuming process when you must reach consensus among several agencies that often have different priorities and responsibilities," Gewe said. "We were making progress in resolving the remaining issues, but time was running out."

It remains to be seen whether a project that meets the priorities of the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power can also meet the standards of the Environmental Protection Agency. The EPA will decide whether and how much to help fund the project--in amounts up to 6.2 million dollars-- based upon how well the project complies with the National Environmental Policy Act and based on the environmental impact analysis, the process from which it was disinvited in May.

Originally conceived and agreed to in 1991 as partial mitigation for decades of Owens Valley environmental damage due to Los Angeles's groundwater pumping, the Lower Owens River Project would, among other measures, partially rewater a 62-mile stretch of the Lower Owens River that ceased to flow after surface water diversions to the first City of Los Angeles aqueduct in the early 1900s. A Memorandum of Understanding between LADWP and other parties in 1997 clarified terms of the project. Groundwater pumping continues, but the LORP remains unimplemented.

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