The California State Water Resources Control Board is days away from issuing a final Order on Mono Basin stream restoration that will launch a new package of measures to heal 20 miles of creek habitats and fisheries in the streams tributary to Mono Lake.
The program is part of the decades long effort to heal the damage done by past excessive water diversion by the Los Angeles Department of Water & Power (DWP).
The measures include an outlet at the vintage Grant Dam to allow release of springtime snowmelt high flows, a sophisticated program of ecologically designed stream ecosystem flow requirements, a monitoring program and more.
The package of elements was agreed to by DWP, the Mono Ake Committee, California Trout, and California department of Fish and Wildlife in 2013 settlement to implement the deeply researched recommendations of the State Water Board’s independent scientists.
DWP alleges State Water Board is “legally deficient”
In a striking contrast to this positive (and long drawn out) progress, the DWP General Manager recently wrote a letter claiming that the State Water Board’s planned action is “legally deficient.” The letter appears to be part of an effort to derail State Water Board action—and in direct violation of the stream restoration settlement agreement’s provisions.
Alarmingly, the DWP letter fundamentally misrepresents the terms of settlement agreement in a way that threatens the important, but separate, matter of restoring Mono Lake to health. DWP claims the agreement guarantees them long term substantial diversion of water from Mono Lake’s tributary streams, regardless of the current low level of Mono Lake and the resulting ecological and public health concerns.
The letter is fundamentally wrong about the facts, and the Mono Lake Committee has swung into action to make the truth of the matter clear through legal and political engagement. Stream restoration and lake restoration are separate matters, and DWP is responsible for accomplishing both under the mandates of their water licenses. There are no free passes to overlook the health of Mono Lake.
The story of the settlement agreement already follows a convoluted path full of DWP delays over the past 8 years. We expect more developments this month.
It is baffling to understand why DWP continues to throw up roadblocks to completing the much-lauded 2013 settlement agreement that its own Board of Commissioners approved. Nonetheless, the
Mono Lake Committee stands by the agreement, supports the draft Order, and has continued to urge the State Board to adopt the license amendments proposed by LADWP and the other settlement parties in 2013.