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Case Studies


Information about the LWTA can be grouped into three broad types: 1) technical documents regarding experimental protocols, monitoring and modeling results, as well as scientific papers discussing Owens Valley ecology and hydrology; 2) news media reports of decisions pertaining to the LWTA by political bodies such as the Inyo County Water Commission, Inyo County Board of Supervisors, Los Angeles Board of Water and Power Commissioners, and the Inyo-LA Standing Committee; and 3) communications from both ICWD and DWP directly to the public in the form of statements at Inyo County Water Commission meetings and newsletters/infomercials sent and broadcast to the public on an irregular basis.

Although information may be abundant, most of it lacks the context for proper evaluation. †In most cases this is because issues have lengthy histories which canít be fit into short news articles.† Furthermore, the history of any given issue usually exceeds the reporterís tenure so he/she may not realize that events from as far back as 1970 may be essential to understand occurrences today. Compounding these difficulties is the fact that information is often released selectively.† A political or management entity releases discretionary information that favors itself.† Information inconsistent with the released information is not disclosed.† Local news media lack the resources for investigative reporting and there is no evidence that what gets reported is subject to critical scrutiny.

A final reason much information is incomplete is because many issues involve scientific data and analyses.† Even if members of local news media have the expertise to understand technical reports they rarely have the time to use this expertise to read and evaluate the documents.† As a result, technical documents are reported only on a secondhand basis.† News media and decision-makers rely on explanations by agency spokesmen rather than basing reporting and decisions on independent readings of the documents.

The case studies below are products of my own readings of original source material legally obtained. †They are attempts to give both relevant background as well as narrative contexts to selected issues in the implementation of the LWTA.† The lessons they teach — in the use and misuse of scientific information, manipulation of the political process, and bad faith (to name but a few) — differ from those implicit in the carefully selected information released by political and management entities.

The significance of the LWTA, one of the most ambitious environmental management projects in the country, has not been adequately appreciated outside Owens Valley.† There are lessons in the successes and failures of the endeavor, both in terms of political and management processes and in terms of the disciplines of hydrology and ecology, that can be of help in improving resource management elsewhere.† Without detailed documentation and critical scrutiny of the LWTAís implementation, however, the lessons will never be available to be learned.† These case studies are offered as a first step toward teaching the LWTAís lessons.

— Daniel Pritchett,† April 2004

Case Studies: