Sunday, December 10, 2006

Owens River

Nice turn around from the past reflected in the notorious movie, Chinatown.

Owens River: Lesson in collaborative good
By Antonio Rossmann - Special to the Bee
Published 12:00 am PST Sunday, December 10, 2006

On Wednesday, Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and Inyo County Supervisor Susan Cash symbolically ended the most celebrated and notorious water war in American history. Ninety-three years after Los Angeles diverted the full flow of the Owens River into the city's aqueduct, Villaraigosa and Cash lifted a gate to reverse that complete diversion. Once again, water flows in the river channel. That act marked the consummation of the 1991 agreement between Los Angeles and Inyo County to govern the waters of the Owens Valley together.

Today's officials celebrate the future of Inyo and Los Angeles. The veterans, on the other hand, bear witness to the decades of work required to get there. For Inyo County and its environmental allies, that meant pressing claims for honest assessment of environmental harm and securing respect from Los Angeles. For the people of Los Angeles, that meant political leadership at the highest levels recognizing Inyo County as the legitimate agent for the Owens Valley's economy and environment, and hearing the county's request (formulated in 1985) that environmental damage be offset by rewatering the river. For the people of Inyo County, that meant daring to put aside a near-century of distrust and taking on the risk of collaboration for the Owens River's sake.

In compliance with the agreement, water will once again flow freely in its riverbed for 62 miles to storage ponds near the dry Owens Lake. From there most of the water will be pumped into the Los Angeles-bound aqueduct; a small amount will moisten the dry bed of Owens Lake to help cure dust pollution. Along the river, natural habitat will be re-established and a productive fishery will contribute to the tourist economy.