DWP, Mammoth water district move forward

As Mammoth struggles to retain control of water rights to Mammoth Creek, yet another lawsuit by the City of Los Angeles Department of Water and Power hit the region late last week. DWP filed a lawsuit against the Bishop-based state air pollution control district over dust control efforts on the Owens Lake.

Now, both agencies share an unwilling kinship—Mammoth is already deeply embroiled in a separate tussle with DWP, after DWP announced it would sue the Mammoth Community Water District for contested water rights to Mammoth Creek late last year.

The fight continued this month, and on Wednesday afternoon, Greg Norby, the water district’s general manager, was in Los Angeles for the second meeting.

On Thursday, he said that finally, some progress seems to have been made.

“I am not able to share more details,” he said. “But at this second meeting, we made some real progress and we believe the judge will allow us to continue with these tolling talks (as opposed to going to court).”

He is not at liberty to disclose the specifics of these mandatory “settlement talks,” but he did say that the judge for the case will meet with both parties Thursday (after the Mammoth Times goes to press) to decide if “sufficient progress has been made in the settlement discussions to continue the temporary stay” or to move forward with the court’s process.

In other words, enough progress would have to be made during these settlements talks to avoid going to court. 

It’s the most optimistic Norby has been since the district first learned DWP intended to take legal action in order to secure what DWP thought of as its senior water rights to Mammoth Creek late last year.

At that time, DWP asserted water rights that the district says are critical to supplying Mammoth with domestic water—and that the district claimed were granted to it by the state—were not the district’s but instead were DWPs, based on a century-old document.

MCWD did not agree, and the two agencies have been fighting about it ever since.

Norby noted that since April, the district has spent $300,000 defending the district and total costs will likely approach $500,000 by the end of the current year.