After three years of collaboration and negotiation with the Los Angeles Department of Water & Power (DWP) over the science-based restoration of Mono Lake’s tributary streams, we’ve come to a crossroads.
Here is an update on the essential background and the current status as of July 2013:
- The Committee sounded the alarm 35 years ago when excessive water diversions by DWP were starving the streams and drying the lake.
- We fought for and won landmark protections from the California State Water Resources Control Board in 1994 with Decision 1631.
- That victory was followed by State Water Board Order 98-05, setting specific rules for restoration of the lake and streams in 1998.
- To restore the health of the damaged streams and their fish, birds, forests, and wildlife, the State Water Board chartered an independent team of Stream Scientists to determine the steps needed and ordered that DWP “shall implement” the scientists’ findings.
- The Stream Scientists’ final report came out in 2010.
- In 2010 the State Water Board asked the Committee, DWP, and other parties to get together, review the findings, and work out an implementation plan.
- For three years the Committee has been at the negotiating table in full force—with the policy team and hydrology and legal experts working around the clock.
- We’ve had some successes, but, now four negotiation deadlines have come and gone.
The Mono Lake Committee does not want to see the stream restoration process dragged out any longer—not while four tributary streams sit waiting for the recovery that DWP promised back in 1998.
So we’re going to be following two paths at once for the next 90 days:
We’ll continue talks with DWP about an agreement that implements the science report while respecting the streams, Mono Lake, and the people of Los Angeles. We believe that a principled agreement with DWP is still possible. We have three years invested in the details; what we don’t seem to have is DWP’s political will to wrap it up. Which is why we are also pursuing a second path.
The State Water Board will soon take control of decision-making. In a June 26 letter to the State Water Board, the Committee requested that they start their process rolling. In response, they’ve allotted 90 days for public comment on DWP’s deeply flawed legal dispute of the Stream Scientists’ restoration findings. We are already at work preparing a robust rebuttal in defense of sound science. On October 1, the State Water Board will start preparing for a hearing on the matter.
We’re walking the two paths simultaneously. Will Path #1 lead to an agreement? That is DWP’s call. They can choose the win-win solution, or they can delay, in which case Path #2 leads straight to the State Water Board. Either way, it’s going to require intense, sustained involvement by our staff, attorneys, and experts, fighting for Mono Lake and the streams.
The way we see it, this is precisely what the Mono Lake Committee is here to do.
We’ll remain active on the first path because that is what the State Water Board asked us to do: they want stakeholders to work together toward a solution. Indeed, we entered negotiations with DWP believing that we could find a win-win solution, as we have done so often in the past. The science showed us how DWP could deliver long-awaited restoration flows to Mono’s streams, fish, forests, and wildlife without shortchanging Los Angeles.
But three years of DWP delays leave us no choice but to simultaneously pursue the second path with the State Water Board. They said if negotiations stalled they would get involved. The process will not be quick, and it will put a strain on limited resources. But it will move restoration forward.
For the birds, fish, trees, and streams
Rush, Lee Vining, Parker, and Walker creeks all deserve the best restoration solutions science can offer. And it will be worth it! When Mono Lake’s tributary streams are rushing past healthy forests rich with birds and wildlife once again, this special place will thrive for generations to come.
The Mono Lake Committee needs your immediate help to push our case to completion. If you would like to support us in this important effort, please click here to contribute to this effort. And we’ll keep you posted on our progress here on the Mono-logue. Thank you!