The Symmes Creek Disaster Area

"We can't keep violating our environment without consequences..." -- Antonio Villaraigosa, December 6, 2006.

"The LADWP is committed to ...the enhancement and protection of the Owens Valley environment..." -- Gene Coufal, letter to Barbara Williams, October 6, 2005.

"Land management that prevents soil erosion and promotes vegetation cover protects water quality and minimizes water losses... LADWP’s commitment to improving the Owens Valley watershed has not gone unrecognized... the renaissance taking place in the Owens Valley is being heard." -- LADWP website, "Eastern Sierra Watershed Management" page.

The Inyo-LA Long Term Water Agreement and EIR require numerous projects to be implemented to attempt to mitigate the impacts of groundwater extraction by the city of Los Angeles. In the photos below, the area behind (to the left of) the fence line is a portion of one such project. The mitigation consists of attempting to grow xerophytic (dryland) species in an area that was once a wet meadow. The gullying outside (to the right) of the fenceline is also an impact of the desiccation of the area due to groundwater extraction, but the gullying has so far been ignored by the land manager (DWP). The fact that mitigation is failing disastrously here (and in other places in Owens Valley) does not prevent DWP from continuing the groundwater pumping which caused the impacts in the first place. Cynics would say these photos, documenting pumping impacts gradually destroying a failed pumping mitigation project, epitomize the Inyo-LA Long Term Water Agreement.

Click on a photo below to enlarge it in a new window

 
February 21, 2007, Inyo Mountains in background. Note the angle of the line drawn from one of the fence posts toward the dark ridge in the distance May 4, 2013, Inyo Mountains in background. The line connects the same fence post and dark ridge noted in the 2007 photo (at left). The angle is very different because the gully has widened by several meters. This prevented me from standing in the same place to re-take the photo. The exact place I took the 2007 photo is now in the bottom of the gully, which is at least 5 meters deep.
 
   
February 21, 2007. The first two fence posts from the left are in danger of being captured by the gully. May 4, 2013. The left-most fence post has been captured by the gully. The post is now held in place by the barbed wire. Some of the shrubs in the re-vegetation site have grown larger, but there is still much bare ground. Even if re-vegetation efforts succeed in establishing more shrubs, they will will eventually be undercut by the gullying unless the area is stabilized.
   
May 4, 2013, Inyo Mountains in background. The captured fence post shown above. May 4, 2013, Sierra Nevada in background. Upstream in the gully from the site of the captured fence post, DWP apparently tried to stabilize the headcut by covering the channel with concrete. The concrete is now being undercut by the headcut -- back to the drawing board!
   
May 4, 2013, Inyo Mountains on the right. Failed re-vegetation south of the gully shown above. May 4, 2013, Sierra Nevada through the clouds on the left. Failed re-vegetation south of the gully shown above. The transformer on the power pole indicates the presence of a pump. All pumps in the vicinty were in "on" status, pumping water for the Los Angeles Aqueduct, when these pictures were taken.

Daniel Pritchett