Since the early 1920s, the Long Valley plains east of Yosemite have inspired comparison to a rustic Western paradise — an idyllic frontier where sparkling creeks meander through lush pastures, waters teem with feisty trout and sage grouse make ostentatious displays of romance.
Much of this great, green expansiveness, however, owes to the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power, which aggressively purchased land and water rights here more than a century ago, according to an LA Times report.
The department’s routine annual deliveries of free surplus water to its tenants have helped sustain ranching operations and habitat here for many decades.
But that relationship is now at risk of ending, and could carry dire consequences for one of California’s most striking and violently formed landscapes.
Citing the impacts of climate change and decreased snowpack — as well as the demands of 4 million ratepayers 300 miles to the south — the DWP has told ranchers they should no longer expect free water for irrigation uses.
The planned water cutbacks, which were first announced in 2018, would affect some 6,400 acres of land near Crowley Lake — an area that was shaped by an immense volcanic eruption 760,000 years ago.