Look before you leap …
So I have been reading The Sheet from afar with much interest concerning that bad bunch at the LADWP (Los Angeles Dept. of Water and Power) taking poor defenseless Mammoth’s water away.
“Help! The sky is falling!” says our “Chicken Little” water district.
Never mind that the pro-growth guys who highjacked our political system engaged in fraud and put the Town’s future in doubt with a $43 million litigation judgment hanging over its head, making it so broke that it will not be able to fix its streets.
These are the same dummies that tried the redevelopment “rumba” a few years ago that flew in the face of the Health & Safety Code so badly, that three elderly ladies kicked their butts at the appellate court level. (Forgive me Andrea Mead if I have offended thee in Heaven for referencing your age) That’s when our retiring Judge Eddie Denton ruled that the pro-growth guys were correct when they defined all those empty million dollar summer homes as “blight.”
Now the new deal is our semi-autonomous Chicken Little Water District telling us all that the Town uses 2,760 acre-feet of water annually and needs more. Don’t forget about the “Duck Lake Tunnel” pipedream (pun intended) a few years ago that they wanted. Gosh it’s our only hope! How else can we put development on either side of Highway 203 from the 395 junction to Old Mammoth Road?
So here we are again, confronted by the same propaganda that big politicians use, which I call the “The Chicken Little Approach” to getting things done. You know, the one about the sky falling in if we don’t run into the henhouse to meet that nice “Foxy Loxy” Water District and ask for protection from those DWP meanies.
California case law tells all of us that once a municipality attaches a use to a water source and uses it openly and notoriously for awhile, that the water becomes the property of the Municipal user no matter what! That’s it! Trust me, it’s chipped in marble. The Town owns the 2,760 acre-feet, period! DWP is a riparian water rights owner because it purchased the Chance Ranch below Highway 395 years ago and I believe they also have rights to water flowing from above the Town out of the Lakes Basin.
The Hot Creek ranch is also a riparian owner and abuts the Chance Ranch property and below it are BLM and some other properties as the stream flows on down to Crowley Lake and we all know who owns that and where it goes from there. The Town on the other hand holds “appropriative water rights” which can be a step below those of the riparian owner.
Water law says that beneficial use for municipalities is the highest and best use followed in descending order by irrigation, etc., but the biggie in water law that takes precedence over everything is Public Trust water rights.
Under this theory, the State holds the rivers and streams (and their fish) for everyone’s benefit as State Trustees of the People. The State Water Control Board and Department of Fish & Game are the State’s Trustee Agencies that are set up to protect our (We the People’s) interest in the Public Trust. The Public Trust includes the wildlife of this State. It is comprised of the animals, the fish and all of the water that is required to keep the fish in the streams alive. (Just ask DWP about the 1983 National Audubon case that dealt with the Mono Lake litigation or the CalTrout case that followed) The Public Trust comes first in priority above all other users. It cannot be sold or transferred to others because it is the property of We the People. (That’s all of us in the whole State! The ones who think we count for something) The Public Trust does not exist for our “Chicken Little Water District, the Town’s future growth plans or anyone else, including DWP.
Unfortunately, because the members of the Water Board and Fish & Game Board are all political appointees, it is very easy for campaign contributors who coincidentally happen to be developers, well-connected attorneys or goodness, even politicians to simply pick up the telephone and make a call to Sacramento and arrange for the Trustee Agencies to look the other way when it comes to protecting our environment. It does not make any difference whether the callers are Democrat or Republican, because both parties are whores for the dollar. They are interchangeable parts of what our country has become today: “The best government that money can buy anywhere on the face of the earth!
The last George Bush we had was an environmental butcher who did more to destroy than any other president since Teddy Roosevelt set up the National Park system. The new guy is better, but anything would be better than Bush. (Oh yeah, I am for a Constitutional Amendment that prohibits Texans from holding the office of President, Vice President or Speaker of the House because every time we get one calling the shots in the White House we have a war) I am getting off track so let’s return to Mammoth Creek.
All of this gives me an opportunity to tell my story about how Mammoth was long before the rich well-connected idiots came to town and screwed everything up in the name of growth and new development. (At least that is my own personal observation) Most of you don’t know what it was like, because you weren’t here in 1949 when I first came up here with my parents to catch trout. We came all the way from San Diego when 395 was the two-lane highway that runs by the old Sheriff’s substation that the ‘60s hippies called the “Pig Farm” and they were referenced as “long-haired hippy pukes” by the Sheriff’s deputies. Back then, the water was clear as it flowed into Crowley Lake and not laced with cow shit. There were really big Brown Trout then. Huge fish on the Owens River existed and they were living in Pleasant Valley Reservoir too. (Jack’s Waffle Shop has some of them still up on their wall) There aren’t any left now.
Back in ‘49 there was a lot more water moving down Mammoth Creek. The pool that formed just to the East of the old highway was three times its present size and there was no green scum that formed over the gravel beds at the bottom of the stream in late summer because the Public Trust water had not been whittled away like it is today by the end of the summer. There were a lot more fish back then and there was no ski area on Mammoth Mountain either. The airport was there and that was about all with the exception of the Hot Creek Ranch. The limit was 10 or 15 fish and there were plenty of them. I was six years old.
During the summer, if no wind was blowing, a green-painted wood rental boat on Crowley Lake would look as if it was suspended and floating on air because the water was so clear. What was is a true definition for how clear and unspoiled the water can be.
Today in the mid-summer, Crowley Lake looks like the split pea soup that you could buy at the V.I. when it was still open in the ‘70s. Hot Creek, which is fed in part by Mammoth Creek runoff, had no silt, but thanks to our wonderful Water District and our pro-growth, nitwit politicians, we have mud all over down there today. Obviously, when the Chicken Little Water District had an EIR done they approached the best (from their point of view) environmental firm to do the studies so that the EIR could be slanted and allow them and not the DWP to grab more water than they should to support more growth. We have the Water District to thank for the green scum on the bottom of the stream bed today and DWP to thank for the algae in Crowley Lake thanks to the cattle grazing that has gone on for the last 60 years.
Twenty five years ago I referred to Crowley Lake as a Bovine Cesspool in a letter to the editor. Nothing has changed with the exception that it is worse! Both the water District and DWP have their own pro-growth agendas. Both of them are BAD at heart and just like the Democrats and Republicans they are interchangeable. The only reason they don’t like each other is because just like the party in office gets to scam all of our money, the Water District and DWP want to scam the water for their respective users and to support more mindless growth. The solution and message is simple: Stop growing and we will stop having problems.
(former 32-year Mammoth resident)
PS: Your former Mayor (now current Councilmember) at the time this airport litigation mess began was an attorney. It was he and the law firm that handled the case that advised the Town to “double deal” that are guilty of malpractice.
Although Mr. Wood cannot be held accountable for this personally, he and the rest of the arrogant idiots that had a hand in this should resign if any of them are still in office. How about suing the law firm for malpractice? That’s what the law firm carrries insurance for isn’t it? It’s “Tar and Feather” time!