Los Angeles, Mammoth Lakes Settle Water Issue

The Los Angeles Department of Water and Power announced Thursday that it has settled a two-year fight over water rights with the Mammoth Community Water District of Mammoth Lakes.

The DWP withdrew two lawsuits and granted Mammoth Lakes continued use of water from an Owens River tributary in exchange for $5.8 million in water conservation projects.

DWP officials accused the Mammoth Community Water District in early 2012 of stealing water from Mammoth Creek, asserting water rights that they said Los Angeles has held since 1905.

The creek has served as the main water source for the ski resort town's approximately 8,300 residents, many of them tourism industry workers.

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DWP General Manager Ron Nichols called the agreement a "win-win," adding that it "shows that it is possible for reasonable parties to come together and reach mutually beneficial arrangements to protect both scarce water supplies and the environment."

"We are eager to begin our joint work with MCWD to implement this agreement," Nichols said.

The Mammoth Community Water District agreed to pay the DWP $3.4 million up front and another $2.4 million, "adjusted for inflation," 50 years later, for "water conservation and water use efficiency actions in the Mammoth Creek and Owens Valley watersheds," a DWP official said.

In return, the Mammoth Community Water District will get to divert 2,760 acre-feet of water annually from Mammoth Creek. It will also be tasked with setting up a method for the two agencies to measure the amount of water consumed from the creek by the ski town.

Mammoth Community Water District Board President Tom Smith described the resolution as a "rational approach."

"Even though this is a minimal amount of water for L.A., it is critical to our community's future," Smith said. "This agreement is something that works for all of us, while also benefiting the environment and conservation."

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