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Owens Valley Aquaduct

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Owens Valley Aquaduct

Two hundred and fifty miles north of the busy streets of Los Angeles, in Inyo County, lay the serene Owens Valley. The Owens Valley is a vast terrain that is bounded by the towering Sierra Nevada mountain range at one end and the barren Death Valley desert at its other end. As the snowfall from the peaks of the Sierra Nevadas annually transforms itself into water, the Owens River drains the downpour and flows profusely through the valley. The Owens Lake would routinely capture this stream and store the river's yearly deposits, but the route of the stream was redirected. In 1905, an avaricious project was contrived by the political agendas of the powerful moguls behind the Los Angeles Water Company, building the Los Angeles Aqueduct.(Davis, Margaret) The project was masterminded by Fred Eaton and William Mulholland to foster the growth of the large metropolis included a larger water supply, and they were willing to achieve their goals by any means necessary. They found their water supply in the Owens Valley. However, the acquisition of the water was surrounded by red tape. Despite the obstacles that stood in their way, the two men found a way to fulfill their vision at expense of the Owens Valley community. Once a fecund and fertile region that was home to many small, prosperous farms and ranches, the Owens Valley has been stripped of its main resource due to the construction of the Los Angeles Aqueduct.

At the turn of the century, Los Angeles began to thrive in its economic ventures. The metropolis was slowly beginning to become focal point of tremendous business activity. As the city boomed, business leaders began to envision the endless potential of prosperity. The population growth was surging. People were flocking to the area in great numbers. The Los Angeles Water Company quickly realized that an auspicious opportunity was to be had and warned the city of need of a subsidiary water supply to sustain its growth. William Mulholland and Fred Eaton were the masterminds behind the idea that was driven by personal gain. They set their eyes on the Owens River, and portrayed its acquisition as an extremely urgent matter for Los Angeles. In reality, however, the majority of the water was to be used for irrigating the San Fernando Valley, where a syndicate of investors had been actively purchasing land with the assurance that the value would increase substantially.

The people of the Owens Valley community had plans for the water as well. Most of the residents were farmers and ranchers who were anticipating an economic outbreak of their own as soon as the newly found Reclamation Service completed its irrigation project in the Owens Valley. The United States Reclamation Act of 1902 gave the United States government the primary responsibility of local irrigation projects. In order to acquire the Owens River for Los Angeles, Mulholland and Eaton would have to deter the government project from continuing. By means of bribery, this was accomplished. J.B. Lippincott, a local agent of the Reclamation service, and a political crony of Eaton's was hired at a generous salary to develop a plan for the Los Angeles Water Company to overtake the Owens River. Lippincott's efforts for the Reclamation Service resulted in the public lands of the valley to be set aside for future development; no rights to the land were secured. Then Eaton strategically bought land options- the land that would be needed for construction of an aqueduct. Ultimately, through the combination of normal land purchases and bribery, the city had secured a substantial amount of land and water rights to dismantle the Owens Valley project of the Reclamation Service.

The purchase of land introduced a scheme that Eaton had conjured up driven by his greed. By planning to mix public service with private gain, Eaton also purchased large parcels of Owens Valley for himself. These pieces of land were crucial points in the architecture of the aqueduct because they would house the important dams. By doing so, Eaton had positioned himself to holdout his share of land when the time came for the city of Los Angeles to purchase the remaining land to complete the construction of the Los Angeles Aqueduct. He would be enable himself to attain a sizable amount of money- a price that he would be able to set. The measure taken by Eaton breeched the partnership between him and Mulholland after it revealed the plot of extortion that Eaton had planned to take. Consequently, Mulholland exhorted city to refuse the purchase of the vital plots of land owned by Eaton, and order a further appropriation of the Owens River.(Mattson, ...

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Keywords: owens valley aqueduct, owens valley aqueduct map, owens valley aqueduct history

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