Hundreds of Organizations and Individuals from Around the Globe Called on the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (LADWP) to Stop Depleting Mono Lake and Instead Seek Urban Conservation Solutions
LOS ANGELES and LEE VINING, Calif., Feb. 22, 2023 /PRNewswire/ — On February 15, in an overwhelming show of support for Mono Lake and its future, hundreds of diverse community-based organizations, environmental groups, CA State and local agencies, and concerned citizens from Los Angeles to Mar Chiquita, Argentina outlined a clear, factual case to protect Mono Lake and build a sustainable, conservation-based water strategy for Los Angeles. At the State Water Resources Control Board (SWRCB) workshop, supportive testimony was received from such diverse organizations as the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, Mothers of East Los Angeles, the Mono Lake Kutzadika’a Tribe, East Yard Communities for Environmental Justice, the California Hispanic Chambers of Commerce, and Communities for a Better Environment.
“The current low lake crisis shows that quick action is needed to achieve the balanced State Water Board protections established 30 years ago. Mono Lake is only 25% of the way to the required healthy lake level, yet LADWP continues to divert water away from the lake.” said Geoff McQuilkin, Executive Director of the Mono Lake Committee, “For more than a year, we have been asking LADWP to meet and try to find logical solutions such as urban conservation, direct install and other options. Unfortunately, our calls have gone unanswered.”
70+ speakers spoke passionately for nearly 5 hours in a historic show of support for this ecologically embattled natural resource. Among the many state and local agencies and groups, there was unanimous agreement that LADWP should focus its vast resources on increasing urban conservation and local supply efforts that would more than replace the amount of water LADWP diverts from the lake. Speakers noted LADWP groundwater exports would continue, and future diversions are possible after the lake recovery is completed. To date, the SWRCB has also received over 800 written comments as part of the public record.
State and Local Agency Management and Scientists Highlighted Habitat Risks and Air Quality Violations
State and federal lands and air quality management agencies joined the call for State Water Board action, noting that management plans to remedy massive dust storms and maintain the health of public parks and lands all require the lake to be 13 vertical feet higher than it is today.
Scientists and organizers also called in to speak from Mar Chiquita in Argentina and Great Salt Lake in Utah, two saline lakes that, along with Mono Lake, provide crucial habitat for birds that migrate along the Pacific Flyway. Saving Mono Lake and other saline lakes is of hemispheric importance.
Strong Environmental Justice Message Delivered by Kutzadika’a Tribe, Los Angeles Community, Environmental and Faith Leaders
The Mono Lake Kutzadika’a Tribe called for full consultation with the Tribe and highlighted how providing more water for Mono Lake is necessary to begin healing extensive damage to cultural resources. Tribe Vice Chair Dean Tonnena eloquently summed up the stakes when he said, “decisions regarding Mono Lake have impacts that span generations into the future.”
Many other groups representing marginalized communities in the Los Angeles area spoke out, including Elsa Lopez, whose group Mothers of East Los Angeles – Santa Isabel conducted some of the first direct-install water conservation work in LA in the 1980s. “I brought generations of youth from the LA area to do restoration work at Mono Lake, which resulted in instilling core values that last a lifetime and made stewards for the environment. We need to be responsible in LA for our own water and DWP should do everything it can to help Mono Lake rise.” Lopez said.
Ashley Hernandez from Communities for a Better Environment said, “As LA residents we will all be impacted by this destructive pattern if our public utility keeps hoarding water while many low-income residents deal with inequitable rates or programs. It is up to LADWP to protect not only our water in LA but to do their due diligence to help our city learn how we can all protect and not take from Mono Lake.”
Longtime community organizers, East Yard Communities for Environmental Justice wrote in support of swift State Water Board protective action: “In taking this emergency action, we believe the SWRCB can unite existing and support new community water plans that transition away from water stealing and towards sustainable local water ecosystems.”
Funding Conservation Efforts Can Help Resolve the Emergency
The water LADWP diverts from Mono Lake is less than 1% of the City’s annual supply. Speakers at the workshop highlighted that sustainable local supply projects such as stormwater capture, cisterns, and rain gardens are proven strategies that can easily offset Mono Lake diversions until the lake rises to a healthy level.
“Millions of dollars of state and federal funding are available to support implementation of these projects in Los Angeles. LADWP, however, said it believes there are no conditions of concern at the lake, and it plans to fight to continue its water diversions.” stated Geoff McQuilkin.
The public can continue to submit written comments to the State Water Board until March 16th, after which the Board will announce its plans for addressing the low lake crisis.
For more details and information on Mono Lake and the current low lake crisis visit www.monolake.org.
SOURCE The Mono Lake Committee