Without water included in their leases, will Long Valley ranchers walk away?
Ranchers who lease land from the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power in the Long Valley/Crowley Lake area were presented with new leases in March that did not include water allotments for irrigation and drinking water for stock.
Without water, ranchers say their production will be reduced by 70 to 95 percent and the wetlands the ranchers manage will dry up. The meadows and wetlands are prime nesting ground for the Bi-state sage grouse that has been saved from being listed as an endangered species thanks to joint efforts of ranchers and environmental groups.
At the Mono County Board of Supervisors meeting on Tuesday, ranchers voiced their concerns and sought help. Supervisor Fred Stump, whose district includes Long Valley, said these ranchers treat the leased land like their own and have heretofore shunned assistance, but are now turning to Mono County for help as no federal agency, state agency or environmental group is answering the call.
The drought conditions of 2012-16 reduced production and LADWP shut off water to ranchers in 2016. Ranchers had not been offered new leases in five years as LADWP reassessed agricultural and commercial leases in Inyo and Mono counties.
LADWP has been tight-lipped on reasons for the change after a century of offering water to lessees.
Ellen Cheng, Media Relations Manager for LADWP stated in an email, “LADWP is obligated to provide water for uses in the Eastern Sierra including the Owens Valley in accordance with the Inyo-L.A. water Agreement, 1991 EIR, Mono Lake Agreement, and other legal commitments. This includes water for irrigation of over 12,000 acres of City of Los Angeles-owned land in Inyo County, Environmental/Mitigation and other environmental projects, dust mitigation on Owens Lake, Mono Lake and stream restoration, along with other uses that are mandated.
“Over half of the water that historically had been exported to Los Angeles is now left in the Eastern Sierra and Owens Valley to meet these environmental and other obligations.”