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LA DWP and Great Basin settle dispute over dust control on part of Owens Lake

Sand dunes at the edge of Owens Lake.
Sand dunes at the edge of Owens Lake.

The Los Angeles Department of Water and Power and the Great Basin Unified Air Pollution Control District have settled their dispute over dust mitigation measures on portions of Owens Lake. Great Basin has agreed to let the DWP lay down  a thinner layer of gravel, and to pursue shallow flooding with brine, to control dust. The deal also calls for steps to preserve the site of a massacre of Native Americans, and for a $10 million DWP payment to help control dust in an area just east of the lake.

The agreement regarding "reduced thickness gravel" and "brine shallow flooding"  will help the two agencies achieve their goals of "controlling air pollution and decreasing the use of water at Owens Lake," according to a joint press release.

Two years ago, Great Basin ordered the DWP to take additional steps to control dust on an additional 2.9 square miles at the lake; DWP has already spent about $1.2 billion on dust mitigation over more than 40 square miles. It sued Great Basin, but a judge dismissed the suit in May. 

The dispute over Owens Lake stretches back a century, when L.A. sucked the lake dry to satisfy the city's water needs. 

Under Thursday's agreement, DWP will pay $10 million to Great Basin to help it set up a dust control project at Keeler Dunes, east of Owens Lake.

The deal also calls for the creation of a Cultural Resource Task Force, which will include local tribal representatives, to figure out dust mitigation measures that will not disturb the 328-acre site of an 1863 massacre of 35 Paiute Indians by US soldiers and local ranchers. 

The agreement is "a first step toward resolving more of the outstanding issues we face as we attempt to safeguard scarce water supplies while protecting air quality in the Owens Valley, said DWP General Manager Ron Nichols.