LADWP promises to fix pipe in Big Pine that ruptured last year
This week, Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (LADWP) promised to fix a 45-year-old pipe that provides water to The Big Pine Paiute Tribe.
At the LADWP Commissioners Meeting on Tuesday, March 21, Tribe members and supporters asked the Commission to take immediate action to restore the pipe, which provides irrigation to tribal lands and has been non-operational for about two years. Commissioners heard public comment from 32 people, 11 of whom drove from the Owens Valley to Los Angeles. The rest gave comment via conferencing from LADWP’s Bishop Office.
At the meeting, Harry Williams, a member of the Bishop Paiute Tribe, accused LADWP employees of deliberately withholding water from the Big Pine tribe, saying, “This is an act of genocide, a violation of public trust. You sign these agreements and you don’t abide by them here in the Owens Valley, on land you own.”
Yolanda Cortez, a member of the Big Pine Paiute Tribe, said to the board, “It’s such a small thing to you and it’s such a big thing for us. I have three kids. I can’t garden … Please just fix the pipe.”
Ian Bell, Environmental Specialist for the Owens Valley Indian Water Commission (OVIWC) testified that the OVIWC has monitored water levels in Big Pine since 1999, and that the organization’s data shows that the water table on the Big Pine Paiute Reservation has dropped as far as 100 feet below the ground in certain places. “Trees, shrubs, plants can’t reach that water with their roots. They need irrigation to survive,” said Bell at Tuesday’s meeting.