A river runs through it — sort of

Owens ValleyThe mayor took city officials, friends and media up to Independence today to let Los Angeles water flow in the lower Owens River bed, officially, for the first time since 1913. Stories will suggest some reversal of the environmental toll exacted by imperial L.A. in the Owens Valley, but I asked the Eastern Sierra's best reporter whether that's true.

Benett Kessler lives 225 miles from Los Angeles but has been covering the Department of Water and Power as a local story for more than 25 years. She even follows L.A. politics in a web column. Kessler, who now owns KSRW 92.5 FM in Bishop, says it's good news that Los Angeles finally stopped resisting local demands and a judge's order (costing $2.285 million in fines) to release some water into 62 miles of the lower river. But she didn't bother to drive out to the ceremony to see Antonio Villaraigosa — she sent a reporter.

The big picture in the Owens Valley, Kessler says, is that the groundwater table is still low, trees and grassland are still dying, and the massive dust bowl that William Mulholland's aqueduct created known as Owens Dry Lake is still dry and vast. (The water released in the river will be re-collected before it reaches the lake bed so it can be diverted to the Los Angeles aqueduct.) "While it's nice that this was finally done for the river," she told me today from Bishop, "there are a lot of other serious issues with our environment here."

For his part, Villaraigosa told the Times, "This is a new chapter in our relationship with the Owens Valley. We can't take back what happened here 90 years ago, but we can make it better."

Photo: AP/Reed Saxon via Yahoo

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