FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
November 14, 2014
City of Los Angeles and Great Basin Unified Air Pollution Control District Reach Historic Comprehensive Agreement on Owens Lake Dust Mitigation
LOS ANGELES and BISHOP, CA – Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, LA City Attorney Mike Feuer, DWP Commission President Mel Levine and Owens Valley air pollution control representatives Ron Hames, Linda Arcularius and Matt Kingsley announced today that the City of Los Angeles and the Great Basin Unified Air Pollution Control District (Great Basin) have reached an historic agreement over the implementation of dust control measures on Owens Lake.
The successes achieved at controlling dust at Owens Lake have come at a real cost to Angelenos. Currently, the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (LADWP) uses about 25 billion gallons of water annually and has spent $1.3 billion since 2000 to control dust at Owens Lake. The equivalent of nearly two months out of every Los Angeles ratepayer’s annual water bill is spent on Owens Lake dust mitigation, including the cost of replacing the water used there.
Today’s agreement will allow the LADWP to use waterless dust control methods, including tillage, at Owens Lake, resulting in significant water and monetary savings for Los Angeles. The agreement also provides Los Angeles with the certainty of knowing the full extent of its liability for dust mitigation at Owens Lake. Great Basin will also maintain its full regulatory authority with the assurance that LADWP will continue to meet its obligations to control dust on Owens Lake.
"After years of conflict, we finally have an agreement that will save billions of gallons of water and millions of dollars for LADWP ratepayers and will address environmental issues at Owens Lake,” said Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti. "With this agreement, Los Angeles is taking its responsibility seriously at Owens Lake, while saving money and allowing more water to flow to Los Angeles to help our city respond to our record drought. This is a significant win for ratepayers and our environment in both Los Angeles and the Owens Valley.”
"Today is a victory for LA's ratepayers and for Owens Valley residents,” said City Attorney Mike Feuer. "By collaborating rather than fighting, we will reduce water usage, contain costs and improve air quality near Owens Lake.”
Mayor Garcetti and City Attorney Mike Feuer were joined by City Councilmember Felipe Fuentes, Los Angeles Board of Water and Power Commissioners President Mel Levine, LADWP Commission Vice President Bill Funderburk, LADWP General Manager Marcie Edwards, Alpine County Supervisor and Great Basin Unified Air Pollution Control District Board President Ron Hames, Inyo County Supervisor and Great Basin Air Pollution Control District Board Member Linda Arcularius, Inyo County Supervisor and Great Basin Air Pollution Control District Board Member Matt Kingsley and Great Basin Unified Air Pollution Control Officer Ted Schade for the announcement at a news conference in Los Angeles.
The agreement was reached following years of negotiations between the parties over LADWP’s responsibility to control dust caused by water gathering activities in the Owens Valley following construction of the Los Angeles Aqueduct. The negotiations were led by LADWP Commission President Mel Levine and Commission Vice President William Funderburk together with Great Basin Board Members Ron Hames, Matt Kingsley and Linda Arcularius, and Air Pollution Control Officer Ted Schade.
The LADWP and Great Basin agreed to jointly ask the Sacramento Superior Court to approve a Stipulated Judgment agreed to by the parties (Judgment) that requires the LADWP to complete the implementation of dust control measures on 3.6 sq. mi. that have already been agreed to, bringing the total project to 48.6 square miles. Under the Judgment, Great Basin will have the authority to issue dust control orders on an additional 4.8 square miles within what is called the "Maximum Controlled Area,” bringing the total potential Owens Lake dust control project to 53.4 square miles. The Judgment limits the issuance of additional dust control orders by Great Basin, and allows the LADWP to use newly-developed and less water-intensive and waterless dust control measures, and will maintain existing wildlife habitat on the lakebed.
As a result, LADWP expects to save nearly 8,600 acre feet, or nearly 3 billion gallons, of water this year. That is enough water to serve 43,000 people. And the path is set to significantly expand those savings in the future.
The Agreement stems from the recognition that the enormous Owens Lake dust control project that LADWP has implemented on more than 45 square miles of the lakebed over the past 15 years at a cost of over $1.3 billion has eliminated more than 90% of the excess blowing dust.
"We are extremely pleased to approve this historic agreement that is the result of the hard work of many people over many years,” said LADWP Commission President Mel Levine. "With California in the midst of an unprecedented drought, this agreement is especially important in that it will save the City an enormous amount water and money. The LADWP now knows that there is a limit to the dust control area for which it will be responsible, and has agreed to meet its obligations to meet air quality goals. LADWP also gets the assurance that new waterless control methods will be allowed, and existing control areas where water is now used could be converted to less water-intensive methods, while continuing to maintain wildlife habitat.”
"The first rule of ecology is that everything is connected to everything else” said Great Basin Board Chairman Ron Hames. "The Owens Valley will forever be connected to the City of Los Angeles by the water from the Owens Valley. We know Los Angeles relies on that water, but we also need clean air and it is Los Angeles’ responsibility to comply with the clean-air laws and protect public health. This agreement allows for both clean air for the families in the Owens Valley and clean water for Los Angeles.”
"This agreement provides a promising path forward based upon both agencies' most basic needs, said Air Pollution Officer Ted Schade. "DWP needs more certainty regarding the maximum amount of lakebed it will ever be required to control. Great Basin needs to have the ability to comply with its legal duty to require a regulated party to meet the federal and state air quality standards. We are very pleased to support this agreement that meets the needs of both the LADWP and Great Basin.”
While both the LADWP and Great Basin have worked closely over the past two decades to solve the dust control problem at Owens Lake, previous agreements and settlements did not limit the amount of lakebed LADWP is responsible for mitigating. Because LADWP's efforts to control dust have been so successful, both parties are now confident that the current agreement will allow the parties to move forward cooperatively to complete the job.
Unique in this agreement is the establishment of the Owens Lake Scientific Advisory Panel (OLSAP), to be staffed by the National Academy of Sciences. The OLSAP will review scientific issues relating to controlling dust using waterless and low-water use methods, among other related matters. The panel’s first task will be to study the effectiveness of less water-intensive and waterless dust control methods at Owens Lake. The agreement also importantly sets forth a process related to future discovery of Native American artifacts, which have been found on and around Owens Lake. Under the agreement, dust control measures may be delayed without penalty in the event additional significant Native American artifacts are discovered in the future.
"The dust has settled on Owens Lake,” said LADWP Commission President Levine. "Over the years LADWP and Great Basin have learned that working together we can best resolve issues. We are gratified that today we continue to move forward in a renewed spirit of cooperation.”
REMARKS BY MAYOR ERIC GARCETTI
Historic Agreement on Owens Lake Dust Mitigation
FOR THE PAST YEAR WE HAVE BEEN HONORING THE CENTENNIAL OF THE LOS ANGELES AQUEDUCT. FOR 100 YEARS, THIS MAN-MADE MARVEL HAS SUPPLIED WATER TO A THIRSTY CITY – AND AS A RESULT, LOS ANGELES IS THE GLOBAL CITY WE ARE TODAY.
DWP CHIEF ENGINEER WILLIAM MULHOLLAND FAMOUSLY DEDICATED THE AQUEDUCT WITH THE WORDS – "THERE IT IS – TAKE IT” – AND OUR CITY TOOK OFF, GROWING OUR POPULATION TEN TIMES OVER TO 4 MILLION ANGELENOS TODAY.
WHEN MULHOLLAND SAID, "THERE IT IS – TAKE IT” – WE TOOK IT FROM THE OWENS VALLEY. AND FOR THE PAST 100 YEARS – UNTIL TODAY – THERE HAS BEEN CONFLICT BETWEEN THE OWENS VALLEY AND THE DWP – WITH THE OCCASIONAL DYNAMITE BLAST AND A LOT OF LAWSUITS.
WHEN THE DWP DIVERTED WATER FOR THE AQUEDUCT, OWENS LAKE BECAME DRY, CAUSING AN ENVIRONMENTAL HAZARD OF SEVERE DUST IN THE OWENS VALLEY. THE ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION AGENCY FOUND THAT THE DRY OWENS LAKE PRODUCED THE MOST PARTICULATE MATTER OF ANYWHERE IN THE NATION.
BUT THE CITY HAS ACCEPTED ITS RESPONSIBILITY, AND SINCE THE YEAR 2000, THE DWP HAS REDUCED THE DUST AT OWENS LAKE BY 90%, SIGNIFICANTLY IMPROVING AIR QUALITY FOR RESIDENTS.
HOWEVER, OUR SUCCESS AT CONTROLLING THE DUST HAS COME AT A GREAT COST TO OUR RATEPAYERS, BECAUSE REDUCING DUST HAS REQUIRED USING A LOT OF WATER. IN FACT, HALF OF THE WATER IN THE LA AQUEDUCT HAS BEEN USED FOR ENVIRONMENTAL MITIGATION IN THE EASTERN SIERRAS AND OWENS VALLEY.
AND THE AMOUNT OF DAILY WATER USED TO CONTROL DUST ON THE 45 SQUARE MILES OF OWENS LAKE WHERE THE CITY HAS BUILT DUST CONTROLS WOULD OVERFLOW THE ROSE BOWL EVERY DAY.
THAT’S APPROXIMATELY 25 BILLION GALLONS A YEAR, ENOUGH WATER FOR MORE THAN HALF A MILLION PEOPLE. IN SOME YEARS, THE DWP HAS USED ENOUGH WATER AT OWENS LAKE TO SUPPLY ALMOST THE ENTIRE CITY OF SAN FRANCISCO.
AND WHEN WE DEVOTE THAT MUCH WATER TO OWENS LAKE, WE STILL HAVE TO REPLACE IT FOR OUR CUSTOMERS HERE IN LOS ANGELES.
THAT MEANS WE NEED TO BUY ADDITIONAL, EXPENSIVE WATER PRIMARILY FROM NORTHERN CALIFORNIA THROUGH THE STATE WATER PROJECT.
OF COURSE, THE WATER WE USE FOR OWENS LAKE IS EVEN MORE PRECIOUS AND EXPENSIVE TO REPLACE THIS YEAR, DURING OUR RECORD DROUGHT, WHEN I’M ASKING OUR CITY TO CUT ITS WATER USE BY 20% BY 2017.
TO DATE, THE DWP HAS SPENT MORE THAN $1.3 BILLION ON DUST CONTROL AT OWENS LAKE. THAT MEANS THE EQUIVALENT OF NEARLY TWO MONTHS OUT OF EVERY LOS ANGELES RATEPAYER’S ANNUAL WATER BILL IS SPENT ON DUST MITIGATION AND REPLACING THE WATER USED THERE.
BUT NOW, AFTER DECADES OF DISAGREEMENT THAT HAS SEEN WATER AND MONEY SPENT AT AN UNIMAGINABLE RATE, BOTH SIDES HAVE DECIDED TO FOCUS ON SOLUTIONS.
TODAY, WE GOT THE JOB DONE: I’M PROUD TO ANNOUNCE AN AGREEMENT WITH THE GREAT BASIN UNIFIED AIR POLLUTION CONTROL DISTRICT – A BREAKTHROUGH A CENTURY IN THE MAKING – SAVING WATER AND MONEY FOR THE PEOPLE OF LOS ANGELES, AND GUARANTEEING CONTINUED IMPROVEMENTS TO AIR QUALITY FOR THE PEOPLE OF THE OWENS VALLEY.
NOW, INSTEAD OF PRIMARILY USING WATER TO CONTROL THE DUST, THE DWP WILL BE ALLOWED TO TILL THE SOIL, CREATING MOUNDS IN THE DRY LAKE BED THAT WILL LIMIT THE SPREAD OF DUST. AND TILLAGE IS AT LEAST 3 TIMES CHEAPER THAN USING WATER.
THIS SOLUTION, NOW TESTED AND APPROVED BY BOTH SIDES, WILL SAVE MILLIONS OF RATEPAYER DOLLARS AND BILLIONS OF GALLONS OF WATER. AND MORE WATER WILL FLOW TO THE RESIDENTS OF LOS ANGELES TO HELP OUR CITY RESPOND TO THE DROUGHT AND REDUCE OUR NEED FOR ALTERNATE WATER SUPPLIES THAT MUST ALSO SERVE THE REST OF THE STATE.
WE WILL START OUR NEW DUST CONTROL METHOD THIS WINTER. IN THE FIRST YEAR OF USE, WE WILL REDUCE OUR WATER USE BY NEARLY 3 BILLION GALLONS, ENOUGH TO SERVE 43,000 PEOPLE. OVER THE NEXT 3 YEARS, WE EXPECT TO SAVE NEARLY 10 BILLION GALLONS, ENOUGH TO SERVE MORE THAN 150,000 PEOPLE.
THOSE SAVINGS OF WATER AND MONEY WILL REDUCE THE AMOUNT OF FUTURE WATER RATE INCREASES AND PURCHASES OF WATER FROM THE METROPOLITAN WATER DISTRICT - SAVINGS THAT WILL BE PASSED DIRECTLY TO THE RATEPAYERS.
IMPORTANTLY, THIS AGREEMENT STILL COMMITS THE DWP TO CONTROL DUST AT OWENS LAKE. IT’S JUST A LOT CHEAPER. WE’RE MORE THAN 90% OF THE WAY THERE, AND WE’LL EXPAND DUST CONTROL TO FINISH THE JOB. WE HAVE COMMITTED TO EXPANDING DUST CONTROL TO COVER 48 SQUARE MILES, WITH A MAXIMUM OF 53 MILES IF NECESSARY.
SO THIS AGREEMENT PROVIDES LOS ANGELES WITH THE CERTAINTY OF KNOWING THE FULL EXTENT OF ITS LIABILITY FOR DUST MITIGATION AT OWENS LAKE.
AND OUR PARTNERS AT GREAT BASIN WILL ALSO MAINTAIN ITS FULL REGULATORY AUTHORITY WITH THE ASSURANCE THAT THE DWP WILL CONTINUE TO MEET ITS OBLIGATIONS TO CONTROL DUST ON OWENS LAKE.
WITH THIS LANDMARK AGREEMENT, RESOLVING A DISPUTE STARTED 100 YEARS AGO, WE’RE MAKING HISTORIC PROGRESS IN ONE OF MY TOP BACK TO BASICS PRIORITIES – REFORMING THE DWP. SAVING WATER AND MONEY – THAT’S WHAT DWP REFORM IS ALL ABOUT.
AND THIS COULD NOT HAVE HAPPENED WITHOUT OUR AMAZING NEGOTIATING TEAMS REPRESENTING BOTH THE CITY OF LOS ANGELES AND GREAT BASIN.
LEADING THE EFFORT FOR THE CITY OF LOS ANGELES IS MY DWP COMMISSION PRESIDENT, FORMER CONGRESSMAN MEL LEVINE, AND MY COMMISSION VICE PRESIDENT BILL FUNDERBURK. BOTH OF THEM DEVOTED SO MUCH OF THEIR TIME AND TALENT TO THIS HISTORIC PROJECT, AND ON BEHALF OF THE CITY OF LOS ANGELES, I AM GRATEFUL.
WITH THEM EVERY STEP OF THE WAY WAS OUR CITY’S AMAZING COLLECTION OF TOP ATTORNEYS, SOME OF WHO HAVE SPENT MORE THAN A DECADE ON THIS, LED BY CITY ATTORNEY MIKE FEUER, WITH CHIEF DEPUTY JIM CLARK, SENIOR ASSISTANT CITY ATTORNEY RICH BROWN AND DEPUTY CITY ATTORNEY RICHARD TOM - AND A PERSON WHO CARRIED MORE THAN HER SHARE OF WATER ON THIS WAS WATER AND ENVIRONMENT PRACTICE GROUP CITY ATTORNEY JULIE RILEY.
THEY WERE SUPPORTED BY OUR TEAM AT THE DWP - LED BY GENERAL MANAGER MARCIE EDWARDS AND INCOMING SENIOR ASSISTANT GENERAL MANAGER MARTY ADAMS, WHO HAS WORKED PASSIONATELY ON BEHALF OF OUR RATEPAYERS AND RESPONSIBLY ON BEHALF OF THE ENVIRONMENT THROUGHOUT HIS CAREER ON THIS ISSUE. LET ME ALSO THANK JIM MCDANIEL, RICHARD HARASICK, BILL VANWAGONER, NELSON MEJIA, JEFF NORDIN, MILAD TAGHAVI, JASON OLIN, JOHN HUNTER, AND JIM YANNOTTA FOR THEIR IMPORTANT CONTRIBUTIONS ON BEHALF OF A VERY APPRECIATIVE CITY.
I’D ALSO LIKE TO PERSONALLY WELCOME AND THANK OUR FRIENDS AND PARTNERS IN THE GREAT BASIN UNIFIED AIR POLLUTION CONTROL DISTRICT, WHO HAVE WORKED WITH US TO STRIKE A GOOD DEAL FOR BOTH PARTIES. LET’S WELCOME ALPINE COUNTY SUPERVISOR AND GREAT BASIN BOARD PRESIDENT RON HAMES, INYO COUNTY SUPERVISOR AND GREAT BASIN BOARD MEMBER LINDA ARCULARIUS, INYO COUNTY SUPERVISOR AND GREAT BASIN BOARD MEMBER MATT KINGSLEY AND GREAT BASIN’S AIR POLLUTION CONTROL OFFICER TED SCHADE [SHADY] – WHO ALONG WITH ASSISTANT AIR POLLUTION CONTROL OFFICER DUANE ONO, HAS DEDIATED A LIFETIME TO HIS WORK TO LIMIT POLLUTION IN THE OWENS VALLEY.
ON BEHALF OF LOS ANGELES, I’D LIKE TO COMMEND ALL OF YOU FOR YOUR STEADFAST AND VERY EFFECTIVE ADVOCACY FOR THE OWENS VALLEY – A PLACE FOR WHICH WE HAVE AN EVERLASTING APPRECIATION FOR WHAT IT HAS PROVIDED OUR CITY.
FINALLY, I’D LIKE TO GIVE A SPECIAL THANK YOU TO THE GOVERNOR’S OFFICE - WHO HELPED US CLOSE THE DEAL IN THE END. GOVERNOR BROWN HAS SHOWN US HOW TO SAVE WATER AND MONEY RECENTLY, AND HIS SENIOR POLICY ADVISOR KEN ALEX HELPED US DO IT HERE IN LOS ANGELES AND IN THE OWENS VALLEY.
SO THANK YOU ALL.
NOW I’D LIKE TO TURN IT OVER TO OUR CITY ATTORNEY, MIKE FEUER