DWP Clarifies Cain Ranch Irrigation Policy
As reported in the winter Newsletter, DWP has not irrigated its Cain Ranch property below the aqueduct from Walker and Parker creeks for several years. (It has continued to irrigate portions of the ranch from Bohler and Gibbs creeks). This has caused considerable concern among residents of the Mono Basin who have watched portions of the green meadows of Cain Ranch, which lies five miles south of Lee Vining, turn prematurely brown under the summer sun.
Apparently, the problem lies with two separate court orders that are still in place and that give contradictory direction. The matter, however, should be simple to clear up.
When asked recently to explain its reasons for not irrigating, DWP pointed out to the Committee that a May 1990 order has not been expressly vacated by the parties. This order on temporary interim flows for Mono Basin streams states: "No irrigation shall take place with water flowing into the DWP diversion facilities from Walker or Parker Creeks."
The Committee has been relying on a subsequent, July 1990 order which states: "If DWP continues to make water available for irrigation practices at Cain Ranch, then it shall make appropriate provisions to insure that the stream flows in Parker and Walker creeks are maintained at the flows set by the court" That is, DWP could irrigate Cain Ranch as long as the court-ordered minimum and seasonal peak flows for Walker and Parker creeks are maintained.
To allow DWP to irrigate Cain Ranch, DWP and the Committee can jointly write a letter to the Superior Court requesting that it strike the May 1990 order. Then there will be no question that the July 1990 order, along with the 1994 State Board decision, sets the requirements for flows in Walker and Parker creeks.
Once the Court acts, DWP will be free to undertake appropriate irrigation of Cain Ranch. The next step will be for DWP, area residents, and the Committee to sit down and work out a responsible plan for irrigation on Cain Ranch. If we are successful, visitors should see the meadows south of Lee Vining stay green far longer into the hot days of summer.