Track 11: Thaddeus Taylor, 40 Acres resident
The tiny 40 Acres community made up of a neighborhood of mostly privately owned homes lies twelve miles northwest of Bishop in scenic Round Valley. Jack Wright, a Paiute Indian first homesteaded the area in the 1890s, filing a claim on a total of eighty acres. He proved up the land with a sheep ranching operation and made necessary improvements to obtain his homestead patent including the construction of an irrigation ditch off Pine Creek. Eventually, the title of the property was passed to his brother Jim Wright, also a sheep rancher.
In 1926, LADWP bought out the lower southern forty acres with Wright retaining the northern section—the location of today’s 40 Acres community now subdivided into forty-nine private properties. The entire community is bordered by LADWP land on three sides with the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) on the west side. The original ditch connects to Pine Creek off the combined properties and continues to serve the community for “domestic supply, agricultural supply, fire protection, ground water re-charge, fresh water replenishment, water recreation, and cold freshwater habitat.” Over the years the community has maintained and regulated the ditch themselves.
Up until 2001, LADWP had never interfered with the community’s use of the Pine Creek diversion. At that time, an ongoing dispute began when the department destroyed a historic wood control gate and built a steel and concrete gate to direct most of the water into the LADWP ditch system. They also secured the gate with a lock to avoid tampering. Immediately, LADWP reduced flows to 40 Acres by as much as 50 percent. When confronted by the property owners of 40 Acres, the department stated that 40 Acres was not legally entitled to the water but could not provide any legal claim to the water themselves. Incidentally, when residents looked into LADWP’s claim after organizing as the 40 Acres Homeowners Water Association, they found that LADWP had in fact built their control gate on BLM land that they did not actually own.
Consequently, 40 Acres residents regularly cut the LADWP’s lock on the new control gate to divert Pine Creek flows back into their ditch, replacing the lock with one of their own. LADWP responds, in turn, by replacing it with a new lock perpetuating a cycle that has been going for over twenty years.
The 40 Acres Homeowners Water Association eventually sought legal help in the matter “to recognize our pre-1914 appropriative water right and to restore the historic flows through the community.” Demands include that LADWP provide them with the historic four cubic per second average daily flow rate that had been recorded by LADWP over a 30-year period from 1976 through 2005. LADWP and the 40 Acres Homeowners Water Association have yet to settle the dispute.
Click here to watch the Cutting the LADWP Chain Cutting Ceremony video.
 Source: 40 Acres Homeowners Water Association website. Last accessed 10/8/12.
 Flows not used for irrigation and other purposes in 40 Acres eventually return back into LADWP’s Pine Creek ditch system.
Archival soundtrack excerpt from Frontier Horizon (The Three Mesquiteers series, Republic Pictures, 1939) starring John Wayne, Ray Corrrigan, and Raymond Hatton.