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The Keep Long Valley Green coalition, which the Mono Lake Committee helps to advise, recently won a victory in the courtroom against the Los Angeles Department of Water & Power. See the full press release below and the Los Angeles Times coverage of the decision here. For background about the Long Valley issue, please see this article from the Fall 2018 Mono Lake Newsletter.
In Crucial Step Toward Keeping Long Valley Green, Court Rules in Favor of Mono County and the Sierra Club
Environmentalists, recreationists, ranchers and indigenous tribes join together asking LADWP to provide stability for the region’s ecosystem and economy by committing to water management plan
Mammoth Lakes, CA (March 12, 2021) – This week, the Alameda Superior Court issued an Order requiring the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (LADWP) to continue its historic provision of water for wildlife, habitat, and scenic, recreational and economic resources in the Long Valley and Little Round Valley regions of Mono County. The decision came as a result of a petition filed by Mono County and the Sierra Club under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) seeking to prevent damage to the region’s valuable environmental resources. Specifically, Mono County and Sierra Club opposed LADWP’s sudden and unanalyzed change in water management practices, arguing that environmental review must be completed – and impacts understood and mitigated – before such changes are implemented.
“The Alameda County Superior Court’s ruling prohibiting LADWP from unilaterally altering historic water provision practices in Long Valley is a step in the right direction,” said Wendy Schneider, Executive Director, Friends of the Inyo, a Keep Long Valley Green member organization. “The ruling affirms that DWP must consider the health of Long Valley’s environment in its actions. The Keep Long Valley Green campaign will continue to seek a commitment from the agency to regularly provide water critical to support Long Valley’s ecosystem and economy. A commitment that, so far, the agency has refused to make.”
Siding with the County and Sierra Club, the Court directed LADWP to continue to provide water which it has historically delivered to ranchers in Long and Little Round Valleys until it completes a comprehensive environmental review. Ranchers have spread water in these areas for nearly 100 years — creating pasture, wetlands and meadows on more than 6,000 acres of land. This bio-diverse landscape to the east of Highway 395 on the way to Mammoth Lakes, CA is critical habitat for wildlife, including the Bi-State Sage Grouse, and supports healthy wetlands, native plants and insects. It also provides important scenic and recreational value and supports various segments of the region’s economy, from tourism and recreation to agriculture.
“We are pleased with the Court’s ruling and hope to partner with LADWP to find a mutually beneficial solution for the long-term that protects our region’s habitat and resources, while also addressing the city’s legitimate water needs,” said Stacey Simon, Mono County Counsel.
Keep Long Valley Green asks that LADWP complete the legally required environmental review, as affirmed in this March 8 ruling before taking any action outside of the historical norm for the region. Following the review, the coalition hopes to see LADWP use the findings and information developed to create a thoughtful formula for water allotment in the valleys that takes the bio-diverse wetlands and meadows, resources of the Paiutes, and wildlife into account.
“LADWP has fought for two-and-a-half years to dry out these pastures,” said Lynn Boulton, Chair of the Range of Light Group, Toiyabe Chapter, Sierra Club. “If they appeal this decision, it would show how disingenuous they are about protecting the environment.”
Top photo courtesy of Hyla / Keep Long Valley Green.