LETTER BY WALKING WATER TO LADWP
August 24, 2019
We first met in person when you joined our panel discussion at TreePeople as we walked through Los Angeles in 2017, on the 3rdphase of Walking Water. Your presence that day was very important as representing DWP. We understand you are now interim General Manager.
We wrote this letter in 2017 on the completion of Walking Water: a 550-mile walk from Mono Lake, through Payahuunadu, and into Los Angeles in three phases over three years. We wrote this in response to what we had witnessed and experienced, to the people we met and listened to, and to the many stories received along the way. We have decided to re-send this letter two years later because you are personally familiar with Walking Water’s intent and purpose.Since we did not receive a response from the previous administration, we hope to hear from you directly.
We now take the time to re-send some of our thoughts and look forward to your response.
The original letter written in 18 November 2017 begins here:
Some see the water as resource, some a commodity, some as a right, some as sacred, yet all would agree…that it is life, our common “ground” without which we die. Throughout our time, we have tracked what are named as successes, challenges, and mistakes related to the care of water in this watershed. The learning here has been informed by many, and perhaps most by the continued connection with the land and water itself. Our understanding has always been that together with ‘rights’ are ‘responsibilities,’ even obligations in the best sense of that word, and that we all have a contribution to make. We know the experience we had will continue to influence futures in our watershed, as well as in other communities, as well as those in other countries.
After walking during one of the greatest droughts followed by one of the greatest seasons of rainfall, we are more aware than ever of life in its extremes and the climate change of our time. Listening to the story of water management from source Lee Vining Creek to end use in L.A., listening to many perspectives, we know more than ever the importance of working in cooperation with the best minds and hearts, both the local and global intelligence around any and all water care. We offer the following in that spirit and truly hope you will take the time to respond to our points as they arrive after many years of focus on water, three years walking 550 miles, and a total time of two months deep in the spirit of inquiry.
We suggest the following to be considered:
First and foremost, we ask now in writing that which we did in person:
- That the tribes be given a seat amongst the decisionmakers. That, with the intention of restoring relations with water and peoples, those first peoples of the land, who carry a different worldview and knowledge, be given a voice. Water sharing throughout L.A. and Payahuunadu (Owens Valley) can be a win/win. We together can play a part in changing the story of colonization to ensure that all nations are respected and have adequate representation. The lands, waters, and original peoples have been devastated throughout time, and there is a growing movement, as we imagine you well know, to heal and change this story. We ask that LADWP and Los Angeles model right actions here with the tribes and look into more ways to serve the people, and the places that they have inhabited for thousands of years. We are all a part of past and present injustices and now choices can be made to be a part of the healing.
- In light of this, we ask you to acknowledge the Indigenous Peoples in your information – at the Headquarters and in your exhibition – specifically including the tribes in the chronological history. We will continue to join with others in this request and make such history part of the education in schools as well as be correctly noted throughout parks and public information places.
- That Governor Newsom offered his apologies for the ways First Nation peoples in California have been treated is a good step forward. A significant next step would be that that apology expand through those agencies that have directly profited by the possession of waters and lands, e.g., LADWP and Edison.
- Our next expressed wish after this walk is that more water be held and widely distributed in Payahuunadu/Owens Valley. We ask that water distribution measures and pumping programs be adapted so as to support the regeneration of lands and aquifers in the Valley. We understand the cost and purpose of the infrastructure that has been built in Patsiata/Owens Lake. Still, we continue to join others in the wish that the refilling of parts, if not all of the lake, be part of any future L.A. water story. We can no longer ignore that such extreme manipulation of water flow does not adversely affect climate and all beings. We ask to stop manipulating water levels in the Valley in ways that severely affect vegetation, animal populations, insects, fire and much more.
- We ask that agencies come to work together and that TreePeople’s recommendations for sustainability programs in Los Angeles be expedited – for example, to work seriously on the expert recommendations to help L.A. be fully water sufficient through L.A. Basin water supplies.
- As a majority landlord of Payahuunadu/Owens Valley, we ask that LADWP continue to support projects, programs, and businesses that inspire and empower the local community. One such example is the Metabolic Studio. The Studio has a large project as you know underway in L.A. and is responsible for sections of the river there. We strongly support a parallel kind of project developed in partnership with tribes and people in Payahuunadu/Owens Valley.
- We have worked with innovative leaders in water retention landscapes, and we ask that you and your many engineers expand your knowledge to consider different approaches and meet with some of these pioneers. We are happy to make such connections. This would contribute to a step in a positive direction and show willingness to change some of the historic methods of water management.
- When considering expanding solar parks, we ask that you inform yourselves more fully of the effects of ‘red heat,’ if you have not. We ask you to consider the work and approach of Rajendra Singh and what he teaches regarding the effects of such on rainfall. Consider what he has accomplished in India bringing seven rivers back to life. We ask that rather than expand a centralized, profit-based energy program, that more focus is given to the decentralized community approach, e.g., local rooftops be retrofitted, education become a greater priority, leading to all-inclusive cross-culture and -class participation in local energy responsibility and development.
We understand that changing ways of thinking, as well as structures and plans, takes time, money, and courage. We look at our history in this world and know of many ‘turn-around’ stories. A next generation of people often discovers that what our ancestors thought and lived – even what seemed ingenious at the time – was at times limited at best, and often innocent ignorance, if not consciously unjust. We can go as far back when some thought the world was flat to as far forward as today when many have had to rethink the value of dams in rivers despite their engineering mastery. We ask for you to share how and where you are willing to be part of a turnaround story?
We know LADWP has been under pressure to meet the city’s needs and we have heard your interest to meet the Valley’s as well, over many years now. We even heard from some of your staff how much you have done in mitigation efforts and beyond. Fortunately, for accuracy sake, one of our core team leaders pointed out how the majority of such grand efforts were under court pressure. Yes, those of us who live in the Valley of course see some of the good impacts. We know and love some of the people who work for LADWP not to mention our relations in L.A. But please, do not take us as being naïve about these actions, nor ones who think we have all the answers. Despite your efforts or gestures you must know that so often your public appearance is as a colonizing force.
We have offered over the course of three years now for you to meet with some global water activists, tribal people, and community leaders, who deeply care – those who have been in the fight and those who are willing to open one more time to see what we might truly do together, for the sake of all life. We suggest the polarization will only deepen if some more positive, honest and non-court initiated efforts are not made to acknowledge the dark side as well as the light side of the Mulholland history. Collateral damage, taking care of the many at the expense of a few, is not the only story possible.
Amongst our Walking Water carriers we have people who have spent time working to heal differences and reconnect with the oldest of earth-cherishing wisdom and traditions around the world. As said, we have contacts with some of the most innovative leaders in land/water care. We suggest such people and communities who deeply care are actually a key resource, needed perhaps even as much as the water in many places.
This knowledge is so needed to influence and design the infrastructure of future water relations in ways that serve water’s healing as well as ours – a system where we can hope to be and have enough for all.
We are grateful to have met those of you that we have at LADWP in our journey…and look forward to your response and continued communication.
Gigi Coyle, Kate Bunney and Alan Bacock
Walking Water core team
Resent August 2019 by Gigi Coyle and Kate Bunney in collaboration with:
Alan Bacock – Water Coordinator, Big Pine Paiute tribe
Krystyna Jurzykowski – Co-founder, Fossil Rim Wildlife Center, Texas & Walking Water Core Team
Justine Epstein – Walking Water Core Team & youth activist
Janet Carle – Author, Mono County
David Carle – Author, Mono County
Jim Epstein – Chairman, EFO Capital Management, Washington D.C
John Wolfstone – Film maker, CA
Geoff Dalglish – Journalist, South Africa
Yamin Chehin- Health practitioner, CA
Brendan Clarke- Co-Director, The Ojai Foundation, CA
Shay Sloan – Co-Director, The Ojai Foundation, CA
Laura Whitney – President, The Ojai Foundation, CA
Yaney MacIver – OVSettlerColonialistDescendant/ManzanarIncacereeNeice/ Payahuunadü Water Protector, Bishop, CA
Scott Davidson – Community ecologist, Sonoma, CA
Hank Wadsworth – Alethia & Morton Warm Springs, Sonoma, CA
Philip Munyasia – Co-founder, OTEPIC, Kenya
Sean Wadsworth – Director, Alethia & Morton Warm Springs, Sonoma, CA
Lia Bentley – Dancer and Activist, CA
Ben Holgate – Farmer, Independence, CA
David Hage – Co-founder, Weaving Earth, Sonoma, CA
Lauren Hage – Co-founder, Weaving Earth, Sonoma, CA
Jasmine Beaghler – Photographer & water activist, Bishop, CA
Ethan Hirsch-Tauber – CEO & Founder, World Water Wizards
Mark Dubois – Founder, Friends of the River, CA
Vera Kleinhammes – Tamera Peace Research Center, Portugal
Ben Reader –Wilderness Guide, eductor , CA
Marc Valens – Lawyer, Ashland, Oregon
Jen Fedrizzi – Photographer and water activist, San Francisco, CA
Sam Deboskey – Beyond Boundaries, Colorado
Sabine Lichtenfels – Co-founder, Tamera Peace Research Center, Portugal
Benjamin von Mendelssohn – Director, The Grace Foundation, Switzerland