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LA, Mammoth Lakes reach settlement

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POSTED July 12, 2013 9:44 p.m.

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Los Angeles and Mammoth Lakes have agreed to share water, ending a conflict between the metropolis and the Sierra Nevada ski town that has century-old roots, it was announced Friday.

The agreement involves the use of water from the Owens River and Mammoth Creek, which runs through the town of 7,700 people.

Los Angeles, 300 miles south of Mammoth Lakes, claimed it has owned the right to water from the creek since 1905. Mammoth Lakes argued that decades ago, the state gave it the right to draw 2,760 acre-feet of water a year from the creek.

The deal between the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power and the Mammoth Community Water District confirms the town's right to that much water, and the figure could be increased as the town grows. The DWP agreed to drop two lawsuits it filed against the district.

In return, Mammoth Lakes will pay the DWP $3.4 million now and $2.4 million or more in about 50 years to use for water conservation and efficiency efforts.

Those efforts could provide nearly 2,000 acre-feet of additional water a year for DWP customers, making up for most of the water that would remain with Mammoth Lakes, according to a joint statement.

"This agreement shows that it is possible for reasonable parties to come together and reach mutually beneficial arrangements to protect both scarce water supplies and the environment," DWP General Manager Ron Nichols said in a statement.

Tom Smith, president of the Mammoth Community Water District Board, said the deal involved a minimal amount of water to Los Angeles that nevertheless is "critical to our community's future."

"This agreement is something that works for all of us, while also benefiting the environment and conservation," he said.

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