CURRENT WATER NEWS FROM PAYAHUUNADÜ

Paul Huette and Noah Williams have the same great great grandparents, Jim and Sarah Hill.  Mr. and Mrs. Hill owned farm land in what used to be the community of Fish Springs, located five miles south of Big Pine.  The Hills obtained the land in the late 1880s when the law allowed American Indian people to claim land allotments.  They successfully grew vegetables and fruit trees.  Eighty acres remain in family hands today, and both Paul and Noah possess a strong connection to the Fish Springs area.

Paul Huette is an enrolled member of the Big Pine Paiute Tribe of the Owens Valley.  He is employed by the Tribe and works very hard to serve the Tribe in his job as well as in the many other activities with which he is involved.  Paul is passionate about water.  He understands its life-giving qualities as it descends from the high mountain glaciers to Payahuundü (Owens Valley, the Land of the Flowing Water), and he sees the precious water being exploited, especially by Los Angeles Department of Water and Power’s excessive pumping in the Big Pine area.  Paul is helping lead a campaign to reduce pumping and have Fish Springs flow again naturally.

Noah Williams is an enrolled member of the Bishop Paiute Tribe and recent college graduate.  Two years ago, he stepped into the position of Water Program Coordinator for the Big Pine Paiute Tribe of the Owens Valley.  Noah’s ties to water are undeniable: his mother, Teri Red Owl, is the long-time Executive Director of the Owens Valley Indian Water Commission and his father is the late, well-known, Water Warrior Harry Williams.  Noah is evaluating conditions at the Fish Springs Fish Hatchery and considering recommendations for operational changes which could result in water conservation.  If less water is pumped, the springs may flow again, wetland habitat may be recreated, and some cultural integrity might return to this area to which Noah and Paul and all of their extended families are so closely tied.

Here, Paul and Noah speak with newsletter editor Kate Bunney about their personal views on water, the land, and our collective future.

Paul Huette knows what it takes to get water to the people. As water operator and wastewater operator for the Big Pine Paiute Tribe of the Owens Valley, he takes pride in the tribe’s award-winning water quality and is dedicated to seeing that it flows to where it is needed. This is no simple task, since even basic maintenance issues have had a tendency to become complex, drawn-out political struggles due to the fact that the water supply system for the reservation originates on land owned by the City of Los Angeles. Paul has been an advocate in these broader water rights struggles through his role as Vice Chairperson of the Owens Valley Indian Water Commission. He has also been vocal about the impacts of Los Angeles’s groundwater pumping in the valley, serving on Big Pine Tribe’s Environmental Protection Committee and on the Inyo County Water Commission. Paul’s dedication to public service extends to all parts of the water system, from regional environmental stewardship and valley-wide water management to tribal water rights and water supply systems, ensuring that there is not only water for today but also for future generations.

Noah Williams earned a B.A. in Environmental Communication from California State University Channel Islands, 2019. Noah is a member of the Bishop Paiute Tribe, and grew up in Payahuunadü/Owens Valley. He is an experienced researcher with a background in public engagement, environmental law and policy, and communicating science and technology. He currently serves as the Water Program Coordinator for the Big Pine Paiute Tribe of the Owens Valley. As Water Program Coordinator, Noah upholds the Big Pine Paiute Tribe’s Water Quality Standards. In addition, he implements the Tribal Non-point Source Management Plan, considers requests for section 401 certification, conducts bioassessments and water monitoring, develops outreach and education material, and manages water program funding.