The village of Lone Pine up in the Owens Valley is staring at a dead pine tree. This tree greets each visitor heading to the trailheads for Mt. Whitney and Cottonwood. Flying out of town after a monster breakfast, visitors don’t realize the story repeated over and again for more than 100 years here in Inyo. This pine has been growing on the Ruiz Ditch for decades. The ditch carried scarce surface water year-round off Lone Pine Creek down to a small village horse pasture. It carried too much water for such a small pasture. That was a problem.
In 2003 the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power, representing the citizens of LA up in Inyo and Mono counties, unilaterally turned off the Ruiz Ditch, after all it’s their water, and since then has allowed only flows during our traditional irrigation season April 1 to September 30. Water for stock is provided through a hose bib into a trough. That ditch is dry October to through March. It is intermittent now during the irrigation season. The LADWP cutoff and three years of drought have killed that pine tree. No attempt at compromise by DWP prior to drying the ditch. No effort to be neighborly from our absentee landlord. Rolled once again. Bald on top of my head from all the pats from ‘the man’. It’s all good. Gettin’ better.
I want to live in a village where this action would cause elected leaders and unelected, even self-appointed leaders to stir, to rise up and organize all of us. Such a dream. I am naive to the point of being ludicrous, but I can’t stop. Going to the grave with much unfinished business. Recruiting the young folks to get off the couch and live with purpose – an examined life. We are the ‘Little Town With Lots of Charm’ the sign says. What’s with that?
Inyo has BIG problems with LA and we have had success fighting The City. Our mighty Inyo County Water Department with its staff of 9 has stood toe to toe against a bully – the folks in the 15 floor building on ‘Hope’ Street in Los Angeles. We’ve said, occasionally, “We want to live on our feet rather than die on our knees” (not my words, but such perfect ones). Ruiz Ditch is not a BIG problem, but it is a stick in my eye every damn time I drive home up Whitney Portal Road into the Hills. It is a part of the death by 1,000 cuts.