Big Pine Paiute Tribe wins appeal to have LADWP fix pipeline
This story was first published in the April 2017 edition of First Nation’s Focus.
LOS ANGELES — Speaking on behalf of the Big Pine Paiute Tribe, Chairwoman Shannon Romero extends a sincere thanks to the many people, near and far, who supported their five-year struggle to get the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (LADWP) to repair its broken pipeline that caused the community to lose half its irrigation water.
More than 40 people gave public comments at the March 21 meeting of the Los Angeles Board of Water and Power Commissioners, held at LADWP headquarters.
“The day was an amazing show of solidarity with people uniting to demand that LADWP do the right thing,” said Romero. “The letters, prayers, public statements, and words of encouragement were heard by the Commissioners. I’m happy to report that the next day, March 22, the Tribe was informed that LADWP will fix the pipe within the next six weeks, so that our community will receive irrigation water in time for the 2017 growing season.”
Tribal representatives from the Owens Valley, including Big Pine tribal elders, youth and staff, made the eight-hour trip to Los Angeles, where they were joined by Southern California citizens concerned about the issue.
Four hours north in Bishop, Calif., about 40 people crowded into a small conference room where the Commission meeting was being telecast, and more citizens added their concerns about the Tribe not getting its share of water.
The support and testimony provided during the public comment resulted in an uncharacteristic response — each of the Commissioners engaged speakers and replied during the meeting, and one of the commissioners said that she would personally assist in resolving the water crisis by providing the funds needed to fix the pipe out of her own pocket.
The Tribe is pleased with the commitment by LADWP to fix the pipe, Romero said, but vigilance is needed to ensure LADWP carries out the pipe replacement in a timely manner, and ongoing consultation is needed to resolve longterm water rights issues.
“The Tribe and others in Owens Valley continue to struggle with establishing a meaningful working relationship with LADWP,” she said. “The Tribe has unmet consultation needs and unresolved water rights issues. It concerns the Tribe that commitments critical to life and the future of Owens Valley tribes — which were spelled out in the 1939 land exchange agreement between the City of Los Angeles and United States of America — may no longer be a priority for DWP.
“The Big Pine Reservation is adversely affected by ongoing impacts due to LADWP’s water gathering activities, including the excessive amount of groundwater pumping from the Big Pine area, and LADWP’s apparent apathy toward fulfilling decades-old mitigation obligations. The Tribe is committed to continuing its efforts to work with LADWP leaders to develop ways to move forward cooperatively and resolve problems in a streamlined, non-confrontational manner.”
Jill Paydon is administrator of the Big Pine Paiute Tribe of the Owens Valley.
Stacey Montooth, a member of the Walker River Paiute Nation who works currently as Public Relations and Community Information Officer for the Reno-Sparks Indian Colony, will start her new role Sept. 1.