The City of Los Angeles owns about 315,000 acres of eastern Sierra watershed land, which is administered by its Department of Water & Power (DWP). Los Angeles is, therefore, the largest taxpayer in both Inyo and Mono Counties.
Over the past seven decades, it has been the policy of the DWP to make these lands available for use by local farm and ranch operators, pack outfits, businesses, schools, city and county governments, state and federal agencies, and college and university researchers, as well as the many thousands of tourists who visit the eastern Sierra each year.
The 239,000 acres of DWP property leased for livestock grazing and alfalfa farming are leased with the written agreement that at least 75 percent of the property remain open for public access; e.g., for hunting, fishing, water sports, hiking, bike riding, photography, painting, bird watching, wildlife viewing, etc. Overnight camping, however, is restricted to developed campgrounds.
The DWP also leases property for airports, fair grounds, public golf courses, city parks, campgrounds, museums, visitor centers, parking lots, and radio, television and telephone facilities (relay stations, microwave stations, etc.).
In addition to leases, the DWP has sold numerous land easements – – to the Counties for roads, pipelines, and facilities; to the State of California allowing highway improvement projects; and to the City of Bishop for road drainage, water, and sewer facilities. Property has also been sold to Inyo County for a Senior Citizens Mobile Home Park, a low-income housing project, light industrial uses, school and pre-school expansion, a hospital skilled nursing facility and expansion of the existing hospital, and for sewer ponds for the local Indian Reservation.
In addition, permits are given to film companies for the production of commercials, documentaries, and feature-length films – – creating an economic boost for the local communities.
Following is a short list of public benefits provided by the LADWP in Inyo and Mono Counties:
- Campgrounds on LADWP lands:
- Diaz Lake Campground
- Portagee Joe Campground
- Independence Creek Campground
- Taboose Creek Campground
- Tinemaha Campground
- Baker Creek Campground
- Glacier View Campground
- Brown’s Schober Lane Campground
- Millpond Recreation Area and Campground
- Pleasant Valley Campground
- Crowley Lake South Landing Campground
- Brown’s Owens River Campground
- Bishop Golf Course
- Mt. Whitney Golf Course in Lone Pine
- Land for Blackrock and Fish Springs Fish Hatcheries leased to Dept. of Fish and Game for hatcheries
- Water released into Buckley Ponds east of Bishop for fishery and wildlife habitat
- Land for museums in Independence and Laws provided for museums
- Land leased in Bishop, Big Pine, Independence Lone Pine and other locations for parks
- Woodlots placed on LADWP land in Lone Pine and Independence
- LADWP provides land for the Lone Pine Sports Complex, as well as workers, equipment and materials for complex construction
- In 1993, DWP implements a cooperative project between the DWP, Mono County, and Department of Fish & Game, which provides managed flow releases to restore the riverine-riparian ecosystem in the Owens River Gorge, between Crowley Lake and Pleasant Valley Reservoir
- DWP staff biologists take lead in efforts to control a invasive noxious plant, tall whitetop (Lepidium latifolium). Control efforts are coordinated with the Inyo-Mono Agricultural Commissioner.
- In 1996, fifteen miles of fence, with walk-in fisherman access points, constructed along the upper Owens River above Crowley Lake for the protection of the river bank and enhancement of river-bank vegetation.
- LAWS MUSEUM – DWP provides a regular water supply to improve native vegetation on a 21-acre parcel, and establish irrigated pasture on 15 acres and windbreak trees adjacent to the Museum.
- LAWS-POLETA NATIVE PASTURELANDS – DWP provides water for irrigation of 220 acres of sparsely vegetated land (two parcels, 120 and 100 acres northeast and southeast of Laws respectively) to reestablish native vegetation on abandoned lands and increase livestock grazing capabilities.
- KLONDIKE LAKE – DWP provides a year-round water supply to sustain a 160-acre formerly seasonal lakebed area north of Big Pine. The lake provides nesting and feeding areas for waterfowl, and permits water skiing and other water sports during the summer months.
- BIG PINE REGREENING – DWP provides water to flood irrigate up to 30 acres of abandoned agricultural lands northeast of Big Pine.
- BIG PINE TREE PLANTING – DWP provides and maintains ornamental and windbreak trees at the Big Pine school and at the baseball field.
- INDEPENDENCE WOOD LOT – DWP provides funding and irrigation water to establish a 20-acre wood lot at the northeast edge of Independence – – to provide fuel wood, to re-green an area near the town, and to mitigate blowing dust from a parcel of abandoned agricultural land.
- INDEPENDENCE SPRINGFIELD – DWP provides water to a 300-acre area east of Independence that had been “denuded” of vegetation and had become a source of blowing dust, in order to establish irrigated pasture.
- INDEPENDENCE PASTURELANDS – DWP provides water and equipment for irrigation of approximately 600 acres of abandoned cropland and sparsely vegetated native pasturelands northeast of Independence – – to mitigate blowing dust and improve livestock grazing capabilities.
- INDEPENDENCE DITCH SYSTEM – DWP to reestablish flow during the growing season in an abandoned ditch that runs through the town of Independence.
- INDEPENDENCE REST AREA – DWP provides, labor, equipment, trees, and an irrigation system for a roadside rest area, with picnic tables and associated hardware, adjacent to highway 395 on the south end of Independence.
- INDEPENDENCE REGREENING – DWP provides labor, equipment, and water to reestablish vegetation on a parcel to the west of the Independence Wood Lot.
- SHEPHERD CREEK ALFALFA FIELD – DWP provides equipment, fencing, sprinklers and water for irrigation of 198 acres of alfalfa and windbreak trees near Shepherd Creek south of Independence, to provide scenic enhancement along highway and to minimize soil erosion and blowing dust.
- MANZANAR CLEANUP – DWP responsible for the pruning of remaining fruit trees and the clearing out of debris adjacent to highway 395 at the historic World War II Manzanar Relocation Center south of Independence.
- RICHARDS AND VAN NORMAN FIELDS – DWP provides water to two 160-acre parcels of abandoned and sparsely vegetated pastureland northeast of Lone Pine, to enhance vegetation growth and improve livestock grazing capabilities.
- LONE PINE RIPARIAN PARK – DWP to return water to an abandoned ditch running through the Lone Pine Park that will enhance vegetation along the ditch.
- LONE PINE WOOD LOT – DWP to establish a 12-acre wood lot that will provide future fuel wood for town residents, re-green an area near the town, and mitigate blowing dust from a sparsely vegetated area.
- LONE PINE SPORTS COMPLEX – DWP helped convert portions of the Lo-Inyo Elementary School and vacant DWP property into an outdoor sports complex consisting of baseball fields, soccer fields, bleachers, and associated parking, picnic and park areas.
- LOWER OWENS RIVER PROJECT – DWP provides water to a previously dry 60-mile portion of the Owens River in southern Owens Valley. This greatly expands the experimental release of water conducted in the 1970’s. Water is also provided to five small lakes west of the river, and to oxbows adjacent to the river providing habitat for native fishes and upland game species.