Latest: Duel over Owens Valley water intensifies

A county uses eminent domain to try to reclaim land taken by LA.

  • Owens Lake in Inyo County, California.


In the early 1900s, the burgeoning city of Los Angeles sent agents posing as ranchers and farmers to purchase property and water rights in California’s Inyo County. Water from the Owens Valley was diverted to the city via an aqueduct, drying up agricultural land and draining Owens Lake. Since then, LA’s Department of Water and Power has spent more than $1 billion to mitigate the carcinogenic dust that blows off the dry lakebed (“Keeping the dust down in California’s Owens Valley,” HCN, 3/2/15).

Inyo County has begun eminent domain proceedings to reclaim lands lost to LA, after the city turned down its offer to buy them. A hearing set for August is the first step in acquiring about 200 acres of land and water rights along Highway 395. LA officials appear wary, telling the LA Times that the use of eminent domain could be a “slippery slope.”

High Country News Classifieds