Archive for the 'water grabs' Category

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The L.A. Aqueduct at 100

A hundred years ago — Nov. 5, 1913 — 40,000 people gathered in Sylmar to watch the water arrive for the first time via the Los Angeles Aqueduct from the Owens Valley. It took 5,000 workers five years to complete the $23-million project, which was excavated with dynamite, hand shovels and mule power in rocky canyons and searing desert expanses.

We hope you enjoy this preview of what’s coming Monday, when The Times takes a look back at the aqueduct’s controversial history.

What to look forward to? More archival photos, film and front pages, plus modern photography and an aerial video tour at this page, beginning Monday.

Watch the Series: LA Times

Jenna Cavelle to Guest Lecture at UC Berkeley’s College of Natural Resources: Nov 7th

Jenna Cavelle and Paiute Harry Williams being interviewed by NPR's The California Report

In “Water Wars: Native American Inclusion and Moving Toward Peace”, PeakWater.org Founder, Jenna Cavelle will share her recent work with the Owens Valley Paiute community with UC Berkeley undergraduates in a course titled  ESPM 100: Environmental Problem Solving.

Lecture Summary: “In considering water wars as a global phenomenon that is expected to rise as the climate changes, inclusion of all stakeholders is critical. The solutions for resource conflict are never straightforward but working toward peace begins with healing the historical trauma of affected communities. This lecture will showcase how community service and outreach are restoring cultural landscapes and memory of the Owens Valley Paiute, and in the process, re-imagining peaceful solutions to America’s longest-lived water war.”
November 7th, at 2pm in the Life Sciences Building, Room 101
For more information email: jennacavelle@peakwater.org

 

 

Film History as Urban Mystery: The Case of Chinatown

Film History as Urban Mystery: The Case of Chinatown, By John Walton

Introduction

Historians and students of film are familiar with movies based upon historical events and particularly with cinematic representations of those events, which are said to distort, reinterpret, or otherwise alter history in popular memory. Seldom, however, do we find instances of the effect of film and popular culture on history. The reason, perhaps, is that the latter side of this dialectic is rare or inconsequential in the unfolding course of history. This chapter will argue, on the contrary, that sometimes life imitates art, that renditions of the past in popular culture can have a forceful impact on the making of history. This proposition is examined in the context of Los Angeles’s historical, and often controversial, efforts to acquire water for development the political movement to restrain the city’s appropriation of natural resources mounted by citizens of the Owens Valley in the 1920s, the selective reinterpretation of these events in Roman Polanski’s classic filmChinatown (1974), and the influence of the film on the subsequent and ongoing controversy over water rights and land development in the region since the mid-1970s.

These events began when the City of Los Angeles reached out 230 miles to the northeast along California’s eastern Sierra Nevada Mountain chain and appropriated water from the Owens Valley in an aqueduct constructed from 1905 to 1913. Subsequently, drought and growing groundwater exploitation by the city in the 1920s resulted in the valley’s steady desiccation.

Urged on by growing desperation and traditions of popular action, the valley rose in revolt in 1924, protesting politically and, when that failed, bombing the aqueduct. Although the community struggle of the 1920s ended in defeat, it left a growing residue of memory in accounts of the David-and-Goliath struggle produced in fiction, local history, and early films. Many of these distorted the facts of the conflict by attributing a conspiratorial design to the city’s original effort to build the aqueduct and heroic motives to local resistance. In California parlance, these events came to be known histrionically as “the rape of the Owens Valley.”Chinatown built on this myth and it too altered the facts of the case. The site of the conflict was moved 200 miles closer to the city, the events were advanced by thirty years to the depression-era LA of Raymond Chandler and the story was reconstructed as a murder mystery revolving around conspiratorial land speculation.

Meanwhile, the original controversy had evolved into a complicated legal struggle involving new environmental legislation, a strategic lawsuit mounted by Owens Valley officials, and a revitalized popular movement. By contrast to failed attempts in the 1920s, the local cause was now publicized widely, state political actors drawn into the process, and state courts persuaded that rural communities were entitled to some defense of their resources. In this new struggle of the 1980s and early 1990s, public opinion assumed that Chinatown represented the true history of the conflict—much to the advantage of a burgeoning environmental movement.[1]

In some respects, popular culture became political history and collective action proceeded from a new set of assumptions. Contemporary history unfolded with redressing results, some of which could be traced to the influence of film and popular culture.

READ MORE: ARID Journal

 

Is Syria The First Water War?

Photo retrieved from: www.carbonated.tv

“In Syria, a civil war has raged for two years, and while many people have ideas about what should be done, few have any hope that the war will soon stop. In California, a forest fire the size of Chicago is now 80% contained, after weeks of coordinated efforts to manage the fire. There is a common exacerbating factor between the California Rim Fire and the Syrian Civil War: water, or, more specifically, the lack of water.

Droughts didn’t cause Bashar al-Assad to be a heartless dictator (and incompetent manager), nor did droughts cause sectarian conflicts to exist in the first place, but the increased heat from climate change has parched the Middle East, particularly Syria, and combined with Syria’s internal strife, the nation is barely holding itself together.

The New York Times’ Thomas Friedman gives an excellent summary of this issue in his column,Without Water, Revolution:

“’The drought did not cause Syria’s civil war,’” said the Syrian economist Samir Aita, but, he added, the failure of the government to respond to the drought played a huge role in fueling the uprising. What happened, Aita explained, was that after Assad took over in 2000 he opened up the regulated agricultural sector in Syria for big farmers, many of them government cronies, to buy up land and drill as much water as they wanted, eventually severely diminishing the water table. This began driving small farmers off the land into towns, where they had to scrounge for work….

“Then, between 2006 and 2011, some 60 percent of Syria’s land mass was ravaged by the drought and, with the water table already too low and river irrigation shrunken, it wiped out the livelihoods of 800,000 Syrian farmers and herders, the United Nations reported.”

Unless there is a breakthrough in desalination technology, water is likely to be the resource where shortages cause large and unpleasant global shifts. Humans are decimating the water supply through constant usage on one end, and climate change driven droughts on the other. Furthermore, much of the water we use is fossil water, which does not replenish (or it does, but it takes thousands of years).”

Read more: carbonated.tv

 

China and India ‘Water Grab’ Dams Put Ecology of Himalayas in Danger

Photo retrieved from: www.earthfirstnews.wordpress.com

“New academic research shows that India, Nepal, Bhutan and Pakistan are engaged in a huge “water grab” in the Himalayas, as they seek new sources of electricity to power their economies. Taken together, the countries have plans for more than 400 hydro dams which, if built, could together provide more than 160,000MW of electricity – three times more than the UK uses.

In addition, China has plans for around 100 dams to generate a similar amount of power from major rivers rising in Tibet. A further 60 or more dams are being planned for the Mekong river which also rises in Tibet and flows south through south-east Asia.

Most of the Himalayan rivers have been relatively untouched by dams near their sources. Now the two great Asian powers, India and China, are rushing to harness them as they cut through some of the world’s deepest valleys. Many of the proposed dams would be among the tallest in the world, able to generate more than 4,000MW, as much as the Hoover dam on the Colorado river in the US.

The result, over the next 20 years, “could be that the Himalayas become the most dammed region in the world”, said Ed Grumbine, visiting international scientist with the Chinese Academy of Sciences in Kunming. “India aims to construct 292 dams … doubling current hydropower capacity and contributing 6% to projected national energy needs. If all dams are constructed as proposed, in 28 of 32 major river valleys, the Indian Himalayas would have one of the highest average dam densities in the world, with one dam for every 32km of river channel. Every neighbour of India with undeveloped hydropower sites is building or planning to build multiple dams, totalling at minimum 129 projects,” said Grumbine,  author of a paper in Science.”

Read more: Earth First!

 

The Bullet That Killed Tomás Garcia

Photo retrieved from: www.internationalrivers.org

“The National Commission for Human Rights has calculated that there is a violent death every 74 minutes in this small nation of about eight million people. It has the highest murder rate in the world per capita.

But the bullet that killed Tomás Garcia came from an army officer, and was intended for killing the people who oppose construction of the Agua Zarca Dam in Honduras. Tomás – a Lenca indigenous leader active on local and national indigenous councils, as well as the Civic Council of Popular and Indigenous Organizations of Honduras (COPINH) – was killed while walking with his son and many other community members to continue the blockade of the project construction site. The army has been protecting the interests of Honduran dam owner Desarrollo Energético Sociedad Anónima (DESA) and Chinese dam builder Sinohydro – the largest dam builder in the world – not the interests and rights of citizens of the communities who would suffer the effects of the dam. Sinohydro is expected to follow its own safeguard policies, including respecting the free, prior, and informed consent of indigenous peoples.  But those policies rarely seem to leave the paper.

Lenca communities impacted by the 25-MW-dam’s construction have been blocking the access roads to the dam’s facilities since April 1, 2013.  But the story starts in September 2010, when 41 hydrolectric dam concessions were granted – by the regime that ousted President Manual Zelaya Rosales – without any consultations with the people who would lose their lands, culture and as we now see, their lives.”

 

Read more: International Rivers

Egypt Sees a Dam Confrontation

Photo retrieved from: www.ipsnews.net

“Ethiopia began diverting the course of the Blue Nile, the primary source of Egypt’s Nile water, on May 28 in another step towards construction of its massive 4.2-billion dollar hydroelectric Grand Renaissance Dam project. When complete, the dam will be capable of producing 6,000 megawatts of electricity, making it Africa’s largest hydroelectric power plant.

Egypt, fearing the dam’s potentially adverse impact on its traditional share of Nile water, reacted to the move with indignation and outrage. Local headlines trumpeted the “imminent threat” posed by the dam to Egypt’s water security.

Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi, along with political figures from across the spectrum, rushed to express their readiness to defend the country’s access to Nile water.

Speaking before an all-Islamist audience at a Jun. 11 conference devoted specifically to the Ethiopia dam crisis, Morsi – who hails from Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood – called for a diplomatic resolution, but warned that “all options” remained open in terms of a response.

“We are not calling for war, but we will never allow our water security…to come under threat,” he declared.

Morsi went on to call for “national reconciliation,” urging Egypt’s rival political camps – the ruling Islamists and secular opposition – to forget their differences in order to counter looming threats to the Nile.”

Read more: IPS

 

Films Focusing on Local Water

“Two water-wise documentaries by two different filmmakers are in the works in the Owens Valley.
Jenna Cavelle’s short documentary, “Paya – The Untold Story of the L.A.-Owens Valley Water War,” has met itsKickstarter funding goal and filming is under way with a projected August or early September completion date.
A new project headed up by the Owens Valley Committee and Bristlecone Media, with Cavelle serving as a coproducer,“Slake: Water and Power in the Eastern Sierra,” is in the fundraising stage.
Cavelle said “Paya,” which  is about two years in the making, aims to tell the story of Owens Valley Paiutes and theirrelationship and use of water before the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power began exporting water in the early1900s.
“The year 2013 marks both the centennial anniversary of the Los Angeles Aqueduct and America’s longest-lived waterwar,” Cavelle says on her Kickstarter.com page. “From critically-acclaimed films like ‘Chinatown’ to best-sellingbooks like ‘Cadillac Desert,’ for the past 100 years, the ‘LA-Owens Valley Water War’ narrative has centered around theviewpoint that L.A. went out and ‘stole’ Owens Valley’s water. But there is a greater story, an untold story that is rich inhistory and human achievement, a story that is as much a part of American memory as the creation of our great cities.
“This film documents the history of Paiute Native Americans who constructed and managed 60 miles of intricate irrigationsystems in Owens Valley for millennia long before L.A. secured its largest source of water through modern engineering acentury ago.”
Cavelle said she has been working closely with Harry Williams of the Bishop Paiute Tribe and other members of the NativeAmerican community to tell the story that she says has been overlooked since the LADWP began purchasing land in theEastern Sierra.
“We’ve been in production since March and we have several hundred hours of footage, and we’re still filming,” Cavellesaid.
When completed, the film will be a short, 20-minute documentary that will be eligible for submission in the short filmfestival circuit.
With so much information, and such a story to tell, Cavelle said she can easily create a full-length documentary about theOwens Valley Paiutes and their history and relationship with water, but her immediate goal is to create the short,accessible documentary and get the information out to the public.
“I just like the format of short documentary films – you can tell the story without making it too much and losing theaudience,” Cavelle said. “Some people from Hollywood have approached me about a full-length documentary film” but anyserious conversations about pursuing that will be held after “Paya” is complete.
Cavelle said the film will be distributed to a number of individuals who invested in the project, raising the $40,000necessary to complete the film. She is also hoping to hold a local premier and have screenings at various venues in InyoCounty. Ultimately, the film will be shown at the Bishop Paiute-Shoshone Cultural Center on West Line Street along withan exhibit she is creating to accompany the documentary.
“This film was born out of a community service project that included (museum exhibits), mapping the Owens ValleyPaiute’s irrigation systems and literacy programs around water,” Cavelle said, adding that she is also working on amuseum exhibit for the Bancroft Library in Berkeley.
Through her project, Cavelle said she has developed a relationship with the OVC, which approached her earlier this year tosee if she would be willing to work on its documentary, “Slake.”
Cavelle said that initially, she refused because she was “so entrenched in ‘Paya,’” that she didn’t think she would have thetime or energy to begin work on yet another project.
But as “Slake” began to take shape, Cavelle said that she saw a need, namely in fundraising efforts, that she could fillthrough her media and social networking contacts.
Thus Cavelle joined the project as a coproducer, and began a campaign to help the OVC generate money and interest to getthe project off the ground.
Cavelle said she has helped raise between $4,000 and $5,000 for the ‘Slake’ project.
According to the OVC, the ‘Slake’ film series aims to document ongoing environmental struggles in the Eastern Sierra dueto continued water extraction by the LADWP.
“This project is timely as the 100-year anniversary of the Los Angeles Aqueduct is being celebrated,” Cavelle said in a pressrelease. “Once complete, ‘Slake’ will be available freely on the web and to media outlets. In addition it will be screened togroups in Los Angeles, Owens Valley and greater California.”
The OVC has initiated an online fundraising campaign and is seeking tax-deductible donations to fund ‘Slake.’ To viewthe film project trailer and to donate to the campaign residents can visit www.indigogo.com/projects/slake-water-power-in-the-eastern-sierra.
OVC President Alan Bacock said that the group is hoping to raise about $30,000 for the film series, which will beginwhere Cavelle’s leaves off. “We will be looking at the original inhabitants of the Owens Valley and what happened withthat when the occupation of LADWP began,” Bacock said. “If the two films were tied together, (‘Paya’) would be like aprequel, and we’re moving more into the modern era.”
To date, the OVC has raised about $10,000, one-third of the amount it needs.
“We cannot make this important educational project happen without public support. Concerned citizens must join in oureffort. ‘Slake’ has the power to hold DWP accountable,” said Nina Weisman, communications director of OVC.
The documentary will be filmed by Bristlecone Media. Jonah Matthewson of Bristlecone Media said the project is still inthe fundraising stages, but, when complete, will include a number of different short films covering a variety of topics.”
“The story is part of Southern California’s origin myth, Los Angeles’ Original Sin: the Department of Water and Powertook water from the Owens Valley to fuel the city’s growth, dooming not only the desert landscape but its own,” the OVCsays on its website. “That story’s usually told in the past tense, but it still unfolds today, a century later. And a forthcomingvideo series from the OVC and Bristlecone Media intends to bring us all up to speed.”

Paiute Indians Help Map the History of the L.A. Aqueduct

Photo retrieved from: www.thecaliforniareport.org

“Working on a documentary project in the Owens Valley on land owned by the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (DWP) can be a little dicey. A truck zooms by as UC Berkeley scholar Jenna Cavelle and Paiute elder Harry Williams begin one of their mapping expeditions.

“Is this DWP land?” Cavelle asks Williams. “’Cause they’re right there, looking at us.”

DWP is aware of the project, but the two haven’t asked permission to make trips onto department property. Still, Cavelle feels generally secure when she’s with Williams because of a sanctuary agreement between DWP and the natives that allows them to come onto the land.

“This is our homeland. Kick me off, you’re gonna have to drag me,” Williams remarks.

The water wars that drained the Owens Valley 100 years ago to feed the Los Angeles aqueduct are today the stuff of literary and cinematic legend. But the Paiute story has been left out of the tellings. Before the arrival of white settlers, this tribe had a sophisticated water system of their own. This year marks the centennial anniversary of the aqueduct’s construction, and Cavelle and Williams are working to uncover this lost part of California’s water history.”

Read more: The California Report

 

DWP seeks truce in water wars as L.A. Aqueduct nears 100

Photo retrieved from: www.latimes.com

“The region’s economy and wildlife have struggled in a stunning landscape of snowcapped peaks, cascading streams and sage plains dotted with alfalfa fields and cattle ranches, and flanked by lava flows and dormant volcanoes. At dry Owens Lake, the focus of an agonizingly complex and expensive effort to control dust storms, dust pollution frequently exceeds federal health standards. Some locals have expressed their feelings toward the DWP by urinating in the aqueduct while reciting, “L.A. needs the water.”

These days, many Owens Valley residents are happy about the DWP’s newly conciliatory attitude, even if they wonder why it is coming now instead of much earlier. “The obvious question to ask is, ‘Why couldn’t it have been resolved years ago?’ ” said Geoff Pope, chairman of the board of the 40 Acres Homeowners Water Assn.

The DWP insists publicly that the three settlements have nothing to do with the anniversary festivities. “It’s serendipity,” DWP General Manager Ron Nichols said. “The important thing is to show that the DWP will work with reasonable people to find solutions that work for both sides.”

The standoff at 40 Acres, where the DWP and residents own property and water rights, began in 2001, when the utility constructed the diversion gate controlled with a wheel the size of a dinner plate.

The structure gave DWP control of the water, replacing a wooden diversion gate that locals had installed at a fork in the creek in the mid-1970s. It diverted water into a latticework of ditches, which disperses it through their little patch of cottonwoods, modest homes and pastures.”

Read more: Los Angeles Times