Owens Dry Lake dust mitigation plan challenged by DWP


The Department of Water and Power is gearing up for a fight against the Great Basin Unified Air Pollution Control District’s requirement to tamp down the dust created by the exposed lakebed, according to Mono County Supervisor Larry Johnston. 
Johnston, who is appointed to attend the air district’s meetings, said the air district believes it is necessary to add another 2.5 square miles to the clean up area, due to new research which shows the newly identified area is contributing more dust to the air than previously known.
The Owens Dry Lake south of Bishop is considered to be the greatest single source of air pollution in the country. DWP was court-ordered to mitigate at least some of that dust by planting vegetation or graveling over the dry lakebed, a project that the agency has been working on for more than 10 years. So far, the agency has covered about 45 square miles of the dry lakebed with gravel and/or vegetation.
But the recent request to add another 2.5 square miles of mitigation area is being met with high-level resistance, Johnston said. 
“DWP’s general manager, Ron Nichols, actually showed up at the (Bishop) meeting last week,” he said. 
The agency is appealing the air district’s request to the state Air Resources Control Board and Johnston said DWP is also spending about $1 million on attorney fees for the appeal. He also said the agency has not paid the $250,000 that the air district said it will need to defend itself.
The appeal process is expected to go at least into March, Johnston said.