Just before the Oroville Dam became daily front page news, during what turned out to be a brief lull in this winter’s storms, one of my neighbors asked me if I thought the drought was over. “Nope, just an interlude,” I said.
As every resident of the Southland must know by now, this month marks the centennial of the Los Angeles Aqueduct. When, in 1913, the valves were first turned and water rushed down the last hillside between the Eastern Sierra and the San Fernando Valley, William Mulholland, the brilliant self-taught engineer who guided the project, and whose career would end when the St. Francis Dam collapsed, famously said, “There it is. Take it.”
A small group of anonymous but rich men already had. And they will again, if they can.
A hundred years ago, these self-styled “civic leaders” cooked up a plan that began by stealing all the water that flowed down the Owens Valley on the eastern side of the Sierra Nevada. If you’ve seen Chinatown you know this plot. A faked water-shortage scare stampeded L.A. voters into supporting a bond measure that provided funds to purchase ranch and farm properties in the Owens Valley,