The Owens Lake Scientific Advisory Panel (OLSAP) was established to provide ongoing advice on scientific and technical issues related to reduction of airborne dust in the Owens Valley in California. The creation of the Panel was specified in a 2014 stipulated judgment entered into by the Great Basin Unified Air Pollution Control District in California and the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power. OLSAP will hold periodic meetings and provide advice through consensus reports.
Owens Lake is located in the southern end of California’s Owens Valley. Beginning in the early 1900s, water was diverted from the Owens River (the primary inflow to the lake) into the Los Angeles Aqueduct for the city of Los Angeles. The diversion caused large portions of the Owens Lake bed to become dry saline soils and crusts that can produce large amounts of dust particles, which degrade air quality in areas downwind.
STUDY 1: UNDERWAY
OLSAP’s first task is to evaluate the effectiveness of alternative dust control methodologies for their degree of PM10 reduction at the Owens Lake bed and to reduce use of water in controlling dust emissions from the dried lake beds. (PM10 refers to airborne particulate matter with an aerodynamic diameter of 10 micrometers or smaller.) The evaluation should consider associated energy, environmental and economic impacts, and assess the durability and reliability of such control methods.
A list of OLSAP members has been posted here.
What is the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (NASEM)?
NASEM is a private, nonprofit institution chartered by Congress in 1863 to provide science, technology, and health policy advice to the government. It is not part of the U.S. government. NASEM enlists leading scientists, engineers, and other experts to answer scientific and technical issues facing the United States and the world. Members of study committees and panels serve as volunteers and are not paid for their service.
Why is NASEM doing a study on Owens Lake?
Owens Lake is located in Inyo County in eastern California. Beginning in 1913, water was diverted from the Owens River (the primary inflow to the lake) into the Los Angeles Aqueduct for the city of Los Angeles. The water production activities resulted in exposed lakebed areas with dry soils and crusts that contribute to airborne dust and higher levels of PM10. (PM10 refers to airborne particulate matter with an aerodynamic diameter of 10 micrometers or smaller.) In 1987, the US EPA designated the southern Owens Valley, where Owens Lake is situated, as being in nonattainment of the National Ambient Air Quality Standards for PM10 according to the Clean Air Act.
The Owens Lake Scientific Advisory Panel (OLSAP) is being established by NASEM in response to a request from the Great Basin Unified Air Pollution Control District (GBUAPCD) in California and the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (LADWP) to evaluate, assess, and provide ongoing advice on the reduction of airborne dust in the Owens Valley in California. The GBAUPCD has jurisdiction over the Owens Lake area regarding air quality. One of the key measures for dust control at Owens Lake is the use of shallow flooding over large areas of the lakebed. The request to establish OLSAP is pursuant to a Stipulated Judgment that LADWP and GBUAPCD entered into in 2014, which acknowledges the need to control dust from the Owens Lake bed caused by Los Angeles water production activities and for the application of effective dust control measures that are less water intensive or completely waterless.
What will this study do?
As indicated in the 2014 Stipulated Judgment, OLSAP’s first task will be to evaluate the effectiveness of alternative dust control methodologies for their degree of PM10 reduction at the Owens Lake bed and reduce use of water in controlling dust emissions from the dried lakebeds. The evaluation will consider associated energy, environmental and economic impacts, and assess the durability and reliability of such control methods.
Has NASEM provided this type of guidance before?
No. This panel and study have been created as a result of the 2014 Stipulated Judgment.
How are panel members chosen?
NASEM issues calls for nominations for committee (or panel) members, seeking recognized experts from diverse disciplines and backgrounds. Each committee must include the specific expertise and experience needed to address the study’s statement of task. The overall composition of the committee is evaluated to make sure that points of view are reasonably balanced so that the committee can carry out its charge objectively and credibly. A provisional membership roster is posted for a 20-day comment period, and all committee members are screened for conflict of interest. Committee members serve without pay and deliberate free of outside influence. All members serve as individual experts, not as representatives of organizations or interest groups.
When does OLSAP meet?
OLSAP will meet throughout the study process. Meeting dates will be posted on the website and sent out in email notifications.
When will the study be completed?
The study will be completed in April 2020.
Can I attend OLSAP meetings?
OLSAP will include several information-gathering sessions which will be open to the public. Those sessions will be accessible via the web, recorded, and posted to the study’s website.
Can I provide comments or information to the panel?
Yes. At information-gathering meetings, members of the public can present comments to the panel. Members of the public may also submit written statements and relevant information to the panel via the study’s website throughout the course of the study. All written comments and submitted materials that are shared with panel members will be placed in the study’s public access file.
Can I see the comments and information submitted to the panel?
Written materials submitted to a study committee by external sources are listed in the project’s public access file and can be made available to the public upon request. For a copy of the list and to obtain copies of the materials (free to press and government employees) please send inquiries to:
Public Access Records Office (PARO)
The National Academies
Washington DC 20001
Normal business hours for PARO are 9:00 am to 5:00 pm, Monday through Friday.
Are Academies study reports peer reviewed?
Yes. As a final check on the quality and objectivity of the study, all Academies reports must undergo a rigorous, independent external review by experts whose comments are provided anonymously to the committee members. The review process is structured to ensure that each report addresses its approved study charge and does not go beyond it, that the findings and recommendations are supported by the scientific evidence and arguments presented, that the exposition and organization are effective, and that the report is impartial and objective.
Will the results of the study be made available to the public?
Yes. After all panel members and appropriate Academies officials have signed off on the final report, it is transmitted to the sponsors of the study and is released to the public. An electronic version of the final report will be available to download for free at www.nap.edu upon completion of the study.
How will the results of this study be used?
OLSAP will produce a consensus report with findings and recommendations that will be available to the public upon its release (expected in early 2020) after undergoing a rigorous external peer-review process. The final report will provide advice to inform decision-making of the study sponsors and potentially other organizations. Other derivative products will be designed to communicate the report’s findings and recommendations to a lay audience. The panel will have no direct involvement in designing or implementing dust mitigation plans.