The City of Los Angeles has mounted a legal challenge to who owns the water rights to Mammoth Creek.
The challenge, which took the Mammoth Community Water District by surprise, was issued about 14 months ago in a letter from the City, said Greg Norby, the director of the Water District.
Norby paraphrased the essence of the letter at the Mammoth Lakes Planning Commission on Wednesday.
His remarks came almost at the end of an exhaustive recap of Water District future plans over the next five to 10 years.
To say that his remarks came out of the blue would be an understatement.
âWhat the City is saying is that âessentially, at a basic level your water rights are junior to our rights.ââ
Norby, in an interview after the Planning Commission meeting, said L.A.âs position is that âthe districtâs water rights should never have been issued by the state in the first place.
âWeâve told them thatâs not practical,â Norby said. âThereâs a community here of 8,000 people and a multimillion recreational industry and itâs reliant on the utilization of that water supply.â
The revelation took the Planning Commission entirely by surprise.
Although commissioner Rhonda Duggan had no comment, precisely, she performed a silent belly laugh and eye-roll. Commissioner Mickey Brown raised a question, too, saying this might be more serious than people think, and compared it to the Mammoth Lakes Land Acquisition case, which resulted in a (as of now) $42 million judgment against the town.
Meanwhile, the townâs community development director, Mark Wardlaw, said the water case could have serious implications for the town.
âIâm sure the town would be very concerned about water rights as they impact our ability to implement the General Plan,â he said, âand protect the rights and property of the population.â
As of now, Norby said the case is moving at a snailâs pace.
âBeyond their letter â and that was October or November of last year â weâve had one in-person meeting and two or three conference calls to try to move the issue forward, and it hasnât moved, 14 months later,â he said.
âWe havenât moved forward from that yet,â Norby said to the commission. âWeâve been trying to work with the City and address their concerns. But after 14 months of that effort, as of today, we have nothing.â
As to whatâs on the immediate horizon, Norby said he and the district are somewhat in the dark.
âWe donât know where thatâs going to go next. When I say thereâs a legal challenge, Iâm not making words up.
âItâs very significant, but we donât know where itâs going to go.â