Every Last Drop A Newsletter From the Keep Long Valley Green Coalition

Hello, Every Last Drop Readers!

My name is Lauren Kelly, and I am the new Water Justice Organizer for Friends of the Inyo. I’m delighted to introduce myself as the new writer/editor of the Every Last Drop e-newsletter. Allison Weber has done an incredible job with this publication for the last few years, as well as Jamie Della, who launched the effort before her. I hope to do both of them justice. Also, just a heads up that we’ll be publishing every other month going forward.

I am, strategically, based in Los Angeles, where I will advocate for the needs of Payahuunadü – also known as the Owens Valley – with city officials and Angeleno residents. But I travel to Payahuunadü often. I am meeting with residents, traversing local lands and waters, and learning from local water justice leaders who have been doing this work for decades.

I come to this work with a strong background in history. I earned a B.A. in U.S. History from UC Berkeley in 2018, where I first became interested in unearthing more nuanced stories from popular historical narratives. To pursue this work further, I went on to earn an M.A. degree in History from the University of Southern California (USC). I trained in Native American and Indigenous Studies, history of the U.S. West, and environmental studies. Now, I’m working on my Ph.D. in History at USC, studying the impacts of water extraction on the people, lands, and waters of Payahuunadü throughout the twentieth century. My passion for the past drives me to create meaningful change in the present.

As someone born and raised in Los Angeles, I feel especially committed to educating my fellow Angelenos about water. Most people who live in L.A. don’t know where their water comes from or how their consumption impacts other regions, hundreds of miles away. That status quo needs to change. Angelenos themselves need to push for their government and utilities to provide water in ways that do not cause harm elsewhere. And beyond simply preventing further harm, Angelenos can also advocate for water justice in Payahuunadü that improves the health of its ecosystems and communities. I am honored to play a role in galvanizing the residents of L.A. to advocate for water justice. I also hope to help facilitate collaboration between different parties doing this work, both in L.A. and in Payahuunadü.

Like everyone who loves the Eastern Sierra, nature is close to my heart. Hiking, car camping, and backpacking bring me a type of peace that I find nowhere else. One of my most memorable backpacking trips, in August of 2022, taught me about the power of the Eastern Sierra’s water cycle. On our first day, a plume of subtropical moisture moved over the range as we crossed the Sierra Crest. Weighty clouds packed the sky as we walked deeper into the high country. My group tucked ourselves next to Glen Lake, in a picturesque basin surrounded by jagged granite spires. We just managed to pitch our tents before fat raindrops started to fall. No worries, we figured – it would pass. But the rain had other ideas.

Left: Photo by Danny Moorhouse. Top: Photo by Lauren Kelly. Bottom: Photo by Alienor Baskevitch.

For the entire week, instead of brief afternoon thunderstorms, the clouds treated us to an absolute deluge that only paused for a few hours at a time. We read books in our tents instead of climbing peaks. We cooked rain-drenched quesadillas. When we got a bit stir crazy, we splashed our way around the basin, soggy but stunned at how the water transformed the landscape around us. Some afternoons, thunder bounced back and forth against the granite walls until the entire basin shook. More than once, rock slides reshaped the landscape around us with a roar that sounded just like thunder. An hour past midnight on our final day, our beleaguered old tent finally gave into the relentless rain. Leaks sprung from each seam on the top of the tent, so we spent most of the night awake, in a futile effort to keep our sleeping bags dry under Gore-Tex jackets. Our sleep-deprived, soaked march from the mountains – 12 miles out through Duck Pass – was the hardest physical feat I’ve ever completed, but the best possible ending to such a wild trip. This trip introduced me to the true force and majesty of Eastern Sierra waters. Now, I’m honored to work protecting this water along its course down the Owens River watershed.

Besides spending time in nature and geeking out on history, I also love to bake. When you see me around town, there’s a good chance I’ll have homemade shortbread or brownies on me. I also love taking my golden retriever, Lucca, on adventures with my fiancé, and we’ll hopefully get her camping sooner rather than later.

If you’d like to chat about water in Payahuunadü, please email me at lauren@friendsoftheinyo.org.

Volume 4 - Issue 2 | March 2024

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