Photographer's Note

The Independence Museum in the Eastern Sierra Nevada showcases agriculture machinery from a bygone era.
Unfortunately most of the equipment seen here met an early end due to the water grab by the City of Los Angeles. In 1903 the new U.S. Reclamation Service sent a team of engineers to the Owens Valley the waterway for the streams flowing east from the Eastern Sierra Nevada mountains to study the feasibility of an irrigation project. They reported the Owens River was underutilized and by building a dam above Bishop, an additional 60,000 additional acres would have water for the Owens Valley farmers.

Here's where Los Angeles became interested in water for their growing City, instead of the farmers. Fred Eaton the former Los Angeles Mayor, persuaded his friend Joseph Lippincott, the regional engineer for the Reclamation Service to hire him as his "consultant". Eaton, Lippincott, and the Los Angeles water superintendent William Mulholland secretly designed plans for perhaps the largest water grab in U.S. history.

Fred Eaton representing himself as an agent of the Reclamation Service, told the Owens Valley farmers if they sold land portions and water rights they would have plenty of water from the new dam to be constructed. Instead, Eaton secretly transferred the land titles to the City of Los Angeles. Mulholland designed an aqueduct which would carry the Eastern Sierra water over 200 miles across the desert to Los Angeles. In July, 1905, the Los Angeles Times reported the City would get a river providing plenty of water. The Owens Valley citizens were stunned.

When the water aqueduct system was completed in 1913, its diversion of water from Owens Valley soon left the farmers fields to dry up and left them bankrupt.
Future battles to reverse the water controls would fail and benefit Los Angeles, especially its own agricultural fields in San Fernando Valley.

A combination fact and fiction involving this water grab is at the center of the flick "Chinatown" starring Jack Nicolson.

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Additional Photos by Ray Anderson (photoray) Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Note Writer [C: 1203 W: 1 N: 3169] (13981)
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