6/25/2005 Judge rules against LADWP
An Inyo County Superior Court judge ruled June 24 that the City of Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (DWP) should face sanctions for missing a series of court-ordered deadlines in the Lower Owens River Project (LORP).

"DWP has been and is in violation of CEQA since the early 70's because the mitigation measures it agreed to have not been accomplished as agreed and ordered," Judge Lee Cooper, Jr., wrote in a Statement of Decision. "....It appears that DWP needs the threat of immediate sanctions before it gets busy on the LORP."

The project, which would restore 62 miles of the Lower Owens River, is partial mitigation for environmental damage from decades of groundwater pumping in the Owens Valley to fill a second Los Angeles aqueduct. Los Angeles diverted the Lower Owens River to its first aqueduct in 1913.

Cooper scheduled a hearing for July 25, 2005, to determine the nature of the sanctions, which may include fines or a reduction in water exports from the Owens Valley. Representatives of the Owens Valley Committee and the Sierra Club, who initiated the lawsuit, have observed that Los Angeles saves millions of dollars for every year the project is delayed.

DWP's claims that delays were beyond its control didn't wash with the judge.

"If [DWP] had not piddled around trying to play bureaucratic games with EPA and with the parties," Cooper wrote regarding one missed deadline, " appears likely they could have complied with the order."

--Ceal Klingler

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