FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Jill Paydon Tribal Administrator, Big Pine Paiute Tribe of the Owens Valley firstname.lastname@example.org 760-938-2003
TRIBE TO LOS ANGELES BOARD OF WATER AND POWER COMMISSIONERS: PLEASE FIX IRRIGATION PIPE LINE Tribe Fears Reservation Will be Dry Again in 2017
(March 8, 2017) – On March 7, 2017, Chairwoman Shannon Romero of the Big Pine Paiute Tribe of the Owens Valley appeared before the Los Angeles Board of Water and Power Commissioners with a plea for help. Snow from winter storms will soon be melting from peaks of the Sierra Nevada above Big Pine, but the Tribe may lose out on its allotment of water due to a broken pipe line. Chairwoman Romero and other Tribal representatives requested the City of Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (LADWP) replace the pipe and compensate the Tribe for water not delivered by LADWP in 2015 and 2016.
LADWP is supposed to deliver to the Big Pine Indian Reservation an allotment of water equal to four acre-feet of water per acre of Reservation land, based on a 1939 agreement made between the City of Los Angeles and United States of America. (An acre foot of water is 325,851 gallons.) For years, at the beginning of April, LADWP has diverted water from Big Pine Creek into a conveyance system located on LADWP land, which carries the water a short distance to the Reservation’s irrigation system. Several years ago, the main 18” concrete pipe line through which this water flows across LADWP land showed signs of age, and the Tribe notified LADWP of the main line’s potential failure. Roots had penetrated the pipe, impeding flows in 2015. In April 2016, water began gushing from the main line out onto the land surface where it was wasted as it flowed, uncontrolled, over LADWP land.
Despite the Tribe bringing this serious situation to the attention of LADWP leaders and staff, as of yesterday, LADWP had not taken steps to ensure the main line would be fixed in time for the 2017 irrigation season.
Tribal members abandoned efforts to grow produce in home gardens, and the Tribe’s Friday evening farmer’s market had few vendors during the summer of 2016 due to lack of adequate water. Trees and other perennial landscaping showed significant stress throughout the Reservation, and some plants died. There was no water to keep down the dust, and residents feared outbreak of wildfire due to dry conditions.
Water is life to the Reservation, and water leads to prosperity in Los Angeles. Water not delivered to the Reservation flowed into LADWP’s aqueduct system, where it was sold to customers in LA. Data provided to the Tribe by LADWP indicate a cumulative shortfall of 1,258 acre feet of water which was not delivered in 2015 and 2016. At a cost of $1,000 per acre foot, the value of this water is equivalent to nearly $1.26 million dollars.
Chairwoman Romero told the Commissioners, “Tribal staff has worked in good faith to meet with LADWP staff during the past year to achieve a resolution to this situation, but LADWP has been slow to respond and has placed harsh and unnecessary terms in documents it has sent to the Tribe. Without your immediate assistance, the Reservation will be dry for the second year in a row.”