LONE PINE (AP) — Los Angeles water authorities are fighting an order by a state air-pollution control agency to expand dust control efforts over the dry Owens Lake bed to bring air quality in line with federal standards.
The Great Basin Unified Air Pollution Control District has ordered the Department of Water and Power to cover an additional 2.9 square miles of the 40-square-mile dry lake bed, the Los Angeles Times reported Sunday .
The eastern Sierra Nevada has been prone to massive dust storms since Los Angeles opened an aqueduct nearly a century ago that drained Owens Lake. In 1997, the city agreed to take responsibility for dust-control efforts at the dry lake bed, spending $1.2 billion on vegetation, gravel and flooding to control dust.
The utility says the effort has been largely successful, reducing particle air pollution by 90 percent.
But now the local air pollution control authority says air quality still does not meet federal standards and wants Los Angeles to expand the dust control program into an area that is so remote that it would cost another $400 million.
The utility argues not all the dust comes from the lake bed.
“We have no intention of walking away from our responsibility for the dust at the dry Owens Lake bed,” DWP General Manager Ron Nichols told the Times. “But the reality is that we don’t create all the dust out there, never did.”
But Ted Schade, Great Basin air pollution control officer, said the exposed lake bed in its entirety is the utility’s responsibility because the utility created the problem.
The California Air Resources Board is slated to hear the utility’s appeal on Friday.
The skirmish is the latest in a century of back-and-forth over water rights between the Owens Valley and the city of Los Angeles, which lies some 200 miles south.
The friction was chronicled in the 1974 film “Chinatown.”