Connecting state and local government leaders

Parched Valley’s Eminent Domain Fight Over Thirsty L.A.’s Century-Old Land Grab

Owens Lake

Owens Lake John Antczak / AP Photo


Connecting state and local government leaders

Also in our State and Local Daily Digest: ‘Somebody dropped the ball,’ in Wilmington, Del.; Trump denies North Dakota governor’s request; and N.Y.C. mayor’s new war on rats.

WATER | One hundred years ago, agents from Los Angeles posing as ranchers and farmers, descended on the Owens Valley. Their mission: to find out who owned the water rights in the area and quietly buy up land. Before too long, much of the water rights in the once-lush valley were owned by L.A. interests, which then siphoned off the water to fuel the city’s economic growth. It was a move that transformed Owens Lake into a desolate dust bowl and doomed the area’s farming and ranching operations. Now the Owens Valley is fighting back and has launched an eminent domain case to reclaim the property that L.A. acquired at the start of the 20th century. The proceedings against the L.A. Department of Water and Power have left the agency’s officials concerned. “This is brand new. It could be a slippery slope and where it would lead us I don’t know,” said Marty Adams, chief operating officer at DWP. [Los Angeles Times]

TRANSPARENCY | In North Carolina, a meeting between Major League Soccer officials and Mecklenburg County commissioners was cancelled this week amid questions about whether it should be open or closed to the public. The meeting was scheduled as the city of Charlotte and the county are weighing a plan that would involve using taxpayer money to help pay for a $175 million MLS stadium. “If MLS wants to talk to us about the use of public money, the public has a right to hear,” Republican Commissioner Jim Puckett wrote in an email. “In fact I am NOT paid to make their case to the public they are.” [The Charlotte Observer]

LAW ENFORCEMENT | North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum had his request to have Dakota Access Pipeline protests declared a major disaster declined by President Trump in late April, his administration revealed Wednesday. Burgum inherited the dispute, which has cost the state and Morton County $38 million—$20 million for law enforcement salaries and overtime and the rest for equipment among other things. The federal government would have reimbursed 75 percent of those expenses if a disaster was declared. [Forum News Service via The Bismarck Tribune]

WILDFIRES | The Montana Environmental Quality Council asked both U.S. Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke and Agriculture Secretary Sonny Purdue to assist fighting wildfires in the state Wednesday. The council of state lawmakers and public citizens seeks an exemption from U.S. Forest Service policy preventing five state firefighting helicopters on federal lands. Buckets the choppers use are larger than the federal standard, and thus they aren’t called upon unless lives are threatened imminently. [KTVH]


New York City, New York: City Hall will invest $32 million in efforts to reduce the rat population by 70 percent in infested neighborhoods, like Chinatown, Lower East Side in Manhattan; Bedford-Stuyvesant and Bushwick in Brooklyn; and the Grand Concourse in the Bronx. Included in Mayor Bill deBlasio’s plan: rat-proof trash cans and bigger fines for illegal dumping. [NY1]

Wilmington, Delaware: The administration of then-Mayor Dennis P. Williams let the terms for members of the Wilmington Ethics Commission expire, effectively causing the body to cease to exist. "Somebody dropped the ball," said the mayor’s former chief of staff, who is now the city council’s chief of staff. "It happens in all organizations." [The News Journal]

Marietta, Georgia: This city north of Atlanta wants to build a community park in a historically black, low-income neighborhood on a parcel land where a small grocery store now stands. When negotiations with the store’s owner failed, the city pursued eminent domain, which sparked a lawsuit that has now made it’s way to the Georgia Supreme Court, where the case involving Georgia’s  Landowner’s Bill of Rights is pending. [Atlanta Journal Constitution]

Olympia, Washington: The State Capitol complex was locked down on Wednesday after reports of gunfire. But police were unable to find a shooter. Employees were told to shelter in place. About 7,000 people work at the Capitol Campus. The incident unfolded between 9:15 a.m. and 10:45 a.m. [The Olympian]

Casper, Wyoming: City leaders are considering whether to create a new fee for property owners to help cover nearly $50 million in deferred stormwater sewer repairs and upgrades. And the City Council wants state legislators to change a law that would require the fee to go up for a public vote. [Casper Star-Tribune]

Jefferson City, Missouri: Gov. Eric Greitens unveiled a new website,, allowing residents to recommend regulations that should be eliminated. A team has been assembled to consider and respond to submissions. [St. Louis Post-Dispatch]