Owens Valley Fights Back


There’s a long painful history in the Owens Valley, of an area that has one major landlord who could care less about the people who live there. That landlord is the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power, and they stepped over the bounds again in their treatment of Inyo County – and this time the county has become the mouse that roared.

This whole valley on the eastern side of the Sierras once was an blossoming agriculture center until LA bought it and killed it off. What could have been rich farmland now simply provides water to Los Angeles.

It was in the early 1900’s that Los Angeles developers quietly began buying water rights and all the land they could in the Owens Valley and the mountains around it. They built a canal and shipped the water south. The farmland dried up and blew away, the stores and businesses built to support the farms closed, and the people who lost their livelihood moved away.

The people left behind lived with the LADWP, but it was never a good relationship. If a homeowner had a river on his property, he couldn’t use it as the water belonged to the city of Los Angeles. The Department drained Owens Lake, causing such major pollution problems that the citizens had to turn to the courts to get relief. Likewise, Mono Lake was saved only after protracted legal action that kept the city from completely draining it.

But the Department got greedy one last time, and now the long-suffering people of Inyo County are standing up to the city.

The county rents land from the LADWP for landfills, a total of about 270 acres on 3 sites. The Department decided they weren’t getting enough rent, and they raised it – by 400 per cent. In addition, the Department now wanted additional payments for the dirt used for covering trash and a host of other changes which meant big rate increases for the people of Inyo County.

It was just too much. The county filed a notice of imminent domain and invited the Department to send out an appraiser. The Department said no thanks; so it was Inyo that determined that the land was worth $522,000. The Department declined the county’s offer and it looks like they are headed to court.

$522,000. Sounds like a lot of money for land that doesn’t have any water rights.


The Owens Valley and the Eastern Slope of the Sierra Nevadas



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