Owens Valley finally loses patience

  • Dry as a bone: Owens Lake dust storm

    B. Moose Peterson/WRP
  A water grab 84 years ago that turned one of California's largest lakes into a dust bowl and enabled Los Angeles to boom may not have been permanent.

By a vote of 6-1 July 2, rural elected officials ordered Los Angeles to forego diverting 43 million gallons of water a day from Owens Lake. The commissioners and mayors said they were angry about dust storms that left people sick and the air murky, and frustrated by 14 years of negotiations that went nowhere. The Owens Valley, reports the Los Angeles Times, now ranks as having the worst particle pollution in the nation.

"I'm tired of hearing the excuses and the alibis," said Inyo County Supervisor Michael Dorame, in the Los Angeles Times. "The people are crying out for this, and those who go against the people are fools."

To stabilize the lake bed, valley officials ordered Los Angeles to leave behind enough water to serve more than 100,000 families a year, in perpetuity. The water would be used to cover one-third of the lake bed, along with salt grass or gravel.

The city-rural war over water is far from over, however. Los Angeles has 120 days to appeal the ruling, and city officials have indicated they will fight to keep the water they have been using for decades.

*Betsy Marston

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