Sunday, July 17, 2011

EJCGC - Episode III - California Water War

Today was a big road day... We drove many miles down highway 395 - parallel to Death Valley, and eventually took a left at Barstow to head east on to Williams, Arizona. Not much to report but I did find out something interesting about this area. On a early morning hike into the hills above Lone Pine, I came across this huge canal behind a tall fence line with barbed wire...

I thought this was curious, but I didn't really think much about it until I saw this...

As Hank would say, "What in the nether?!?" Los Angeles is 230 miles south and east of Lone Pine. When I got back to the RV, we looked it up and it's a grave story. Here's some info on the Owens Valley from Wikipedia:
In the early 20th century, the valley became the scene of a struggle between local residents and the city of Los Angeles over water rights. William Mulholland, superintendent of the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (LADWP) planned the 223 miles (359 km) Los Angeles Aqueduct, completed in 1913, which diverted water from the Owens River. Much of the water rights were acquired through subterfuge, with purchases splitting water cooperatives and pitting neighbors against each other. The purchases led to anger among local farmers, which erupted in violence in 1924, when parts of the water system were sabotaged by local farmers.

Eventually Los Angeles acquired a large fraction of the water rights to over 300,000 acres of land in the valley such that inflows to Owens Lake were almost completely diverted... In 1970, LADWP completed a second aqueduct from Owens Valley. More surface water was diverted and groundwater was pumped to feed the aqueduct. Owens Valley springs and seeps dried and disappeared, and groundwater-dependent vegetation began to die.
Essentially, to supply the development of Los Angeles, the city stole all the water from this valley. Although the farmers got paid, it devastated the region and several lakes dried up and the farm lands closed. This aqueduct supplies about 50% of the water to the Los Angeles viaduct. It makes you wonder how LA is going to fair in the coming decades. Regardless, here's a beautiful shot of the mountains above Lone Pine - I was impressed with this town, small but large in character!

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