Tag Archive for 'owens valley'

Big Step In Restoring Tribal Pupfish Habitat

Photo retrieved from: www.kcet.org

“A Native tribe based in the Owens Valley is applying for a permit to move an endangered desert fish to a specially prepared refuge on the tribe’s land, in an effort to restore a species that was once vital to the tribe’s survival.

The Bishop Paiute Tribe, whose 2,000 or so enrolled members live on and near the tribe’s 875-acre reservation in Bishop, has been working to restore the federally endangered Owens pupfish along with other native fish species on the reservation’s Native Fish Refuge. A pair of ponds at the Refuge have been ready to receive the fish since 2012, when the conservation area formally opened. But these days you can’t just toss an endangered fish in a bucket and move it to a new pond. That would put the Tribe in violation of the federal Endangered Species Act.

So for the last couple of years, the Tribe has been working with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to craft a permit that would allow moving the pupfish to their new home. And members of the public will have an opportunity to comment on that permit starting Thursday.

The Owens pupfish, Cyprinodon radiosus, is the largest of the pupfish species native to the California desert, reaching up to two inches in length. Once widespread up and down the Owens Valley in the network of ponds and sloughs that make up the Owens River watershed, the Owens pupfish was once a staple food item for the local Paiute, who caught fish by the hundreds and dried them for storage and later eating.

That bounty ended with the advent of European settlement and resource exploitation. Water diversions and introduced predatory fish such as largemouth bass depleted the Owens pupfish’s numbers to the point where it was actually considered extinct by the mid-1940s.

Fortunately for the pupfish, a small group held on in a series of pools in Fish Slough, north of Bishop. Rediscovered in 1964, the fish were listed in 1967 as Endangered under the Endangered Species Preservation Act of 1966, a precursor to the current Endangered Species Act.”

Read more: KCET

 

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

 

A conversation with William Mulholland and Mary Austin!

The Eastern California Museum and Mammoth Lakes Library Present:

A NIGHT WITH MARY & BILL, CONVERSATIONS BETWEEN MARY AUSTIN AND WILLIAM MULHOLLAND

Step back in time for an evening with notable Owens Valley author Mary Austin (Judy Nolte Temple) and prominent water icon William Mulholland (Chris Smith) as they engage in a passionate conversation about the Owens Valley and Los Angeles Aqueduct controversy. See date, time and location details on the flier!

 

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.”

1863 Indian Massacre Site Uncovered in California

Photo retrieved from: www.newser.com

“Archaeologists say they’ve stumbled upon a grim page in American history: the site of the 1863 Owens Lake massacre. The Los Angeles Times provides a history lesson: The Paiute Indians occupied land some 200 miles north of LA that proved desirable to an influx of ranchers in the mid 1800s. The Owens Valley Indian War broke out in 1861, but a seminal moment occurred on March 19, 1863: Settlers and soldiers battled with the Paiutes, who tried to flee their attackers by swimming into the lake, but were thwarted by a strong wind; nearly three dozen of them drowned or were shot. The tale of that day remains, but the exact location was lost.

That’s in part because officials diverted the Owens River in 1913 in order to feed LA’s water needs, reports Grist; by the middle of the next decade, Owens Lake was no more. But heavy winds and rains in 2009 may have helped return bullets, buttons, and Native American artifacts to the surface; Los Angeles Department of Water and Power archaeologists found them during a survey last year. But the discovery is spurring a small controversy: The dry lake bed fuels toxic dust storms, and DWP has been charged with mitigating that with shallow flooding—at what is now thought to be the massacre site.”

Read more: Newser

 

Suffocating The Desert: L.A.’s Need for Water Hurts Others

Photo retrieved from: www.kcet.org

“The skin of the desert has been peeled away. It is aloft, and it chokes those of us who breathe here. Each scrape from each stray plow or dozer, each square foot of exposed lakebed with the water siphoned off, each section of desert deemed to be more useful as a blank square mile ends up as dust in the air. It hangs in our skies. It collects in our lungs. It kills us by increment, and someone else benefits.

My life has been shortened by living here. I have been sick. For the past eight months I have mostly woken in coughing fits. My abdominal muscles ache from it. My body heals itself as best it can, but the slightest cold, the slightest cloud of vapor from a gas pump that would cause a short moment of choking before I moved here, and I’m off again for weeks. It doesn’t take much dust. One day in a month, perhaps, of the blue sky replaced by khaki and that sick metallic, greasy smell is all it takes.

You might come visit for a weekend at a time and never see the dust. You might never get the feeling in running your fingers through your hair that they come away coated in talcum and static electricity. You might never find yourself wondering if that trip to the grocery store might cost you a day’s work in lung spasms.

Stay here for more than a couple weeks and you will know the feeling.

Dust was in court last week, or at least dust’s advocates at the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (LADWP) were in court, hearing their lawsuit against the Great Basin Unified Air Pollution Control District get thrown out on a technicality. LADWP is concerned that taking action to keep alkaline dust from blowing off the Owens Lake bed, which it dried out by stages over the last century, would be — in words LADWP uses over and over again — ” “a waste of water.”

Read more: KCET

 

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

 

PAYA: The Untold Story of the LA-Owens Valley Water War

Photo retrieved from: www.aqueductfutures.wordpress.com

Jenna Cavelle, an adventurer, blogger and journalist, photographer, and now conservation and resource studies researcher at Berkeley, is making a film about the Paiute’s use of water in Owens Valley.  From her bio at Peakwater.org (which she co-founded):

Jenna works with members of the Paiute Indian community of California on a project that combines education, outreach, and technology to restore cultural memory associated with their ancient irrigation systems. These waterworks are currently in danger of being lost in the Owens Valley landscape through weathering and neglect. In addition, knowledge of the waterworks is also fading from American memory through the loss of culturally transmitted traditional knowledge. Through community engagement, she works with tribal members to document Paiute irrigation networks and their role in shaping Paiute culture. While her project has real bearing on tribal customs and interests, it also informs larger local and regional communities through education and museum exhibits.

For a full description of the film/project, check out her Kickstart.com page: PAYA: The Untold Story of the LA-Owens Valley Water War.”

Read more: Aqueduct Futures

Cry me a river, build me an aqueduct, and…

Photo retrieved from: www.aqueductfeatures.com

“Hydro-librium signifies the balance of water, an ironic caption depicting the not so equated water dispute between the Owens Valley and city of Los Angeles. As Los Angeles began to flourish as a result of purchasing water rights from the Owens Valley, the playa began to pay the price for the success of this new-found metropolis: Los Angeles.

Water is a natural resource that serves a significant purpose in balancing our ecosystem. The narrative of the Owens Valley and Los Angeles water dispute, showcases a variety of disturbances within the ecology of the landscape as a result of imbalanced water use. Project one attempts to map out the impacts and benefits resulting from the construction of the LA aqueduct. The mapping (above) displays an effort to engage a temporal look at the effects of groundwater pumping in the Owens playa and compare it to observed changes in the climate of the Owens Valley basin. The research however, was not plausible enough to conclude that the results of groundwater have created adverse effects on temperature change within the basin.”

Read more: Aqueduct Futures