Inyo County Points of Interest

Owens Lake Near Keeler, California Forget it, Jake, it's Chinatown

All Photos 18 February 2007
(Click Photos to Zoom)

Owens Lake Dust Mitigation
State Route 136
Near Keeler
Year 1998

Owens Lake Dust Mitigation Program

Owens Lake was once over 300 feet deep and part of a large ancient freshwater lake. As the climate changed over centuries, the lake began to dry up leaving behind concentrated minerals and salts. By 1905, diversion of water by farmers in Owens Valley, coupled with drought in the region, had shrunk the lake even further to approximately 60% of what it was in the mid 1800's. In 1913, the City of Los Angeles purchased most of the water rights in the Owens Valley and completed the first Los Angeles Aqueduct to divert most of the remaining water in the Owens River south to the city [sic] Los Angeles. As a result, the lakebed has been essentially dry since 1920.

Dust blowing from the dry lakebed became a problem for the communities surrounding Owens Lake, and its presence eventually constituted a violation of the Federal air quality dust standard. In July 1998, the City of Los Angeles and the Great Basin Unified Air Pollution Control District entered into a historic agreement committing the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power to mitigate the dust conditions.

This marker signifies the first phase of a dust control; program - Shallow Flooding. This involves delivering water to emissive areas of the lakebed until the soil becomes thoroughly wet to the surface and is unable to emit dust.

This program is part of a series of actions in which the City of Los Angeles and the Department of Water and Power have taken positive steps to protect the environment.

Dedicated November 17, 2001

Los Angeles DWP Department of Water & Power

The movie Chinatown, directed by Roman Polanski, was based upon this sad history.

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