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CEC staff assessment of the Old Salt Lake as an Ethnographic resource

About the California Energy Commission's - Preliminary Staff Assessment (PSA)

CEC Document Title: "Galen Hunter Comments: CEC staff assessment of the Old Salt Lake as an Ethnographic resource."

This comment is a critique of the CEC staff Cultural Resources write up under Ethnographic Resource (4.4-59). It seems out of touch with reality.

Download PSA (pdf, 28 MB), see around page 327.

In the Preliminary Staff Assessment (PSA), the Old Salt Lake site "is identified as an ethnographic resource" saying the place contributes to "California's history of resource extraction by at least three separate cultures (the Gabrielino-Tongva, Spanish, and Mexicans)." Fair enough. Although later in the assessment is: "staff finds that the ethnographic resource lacks integrity."

OK, where it does get out of touch with reality is when staff outlines the Periods of significance - staff says: "The ending date is established as 1835".

What about also including the other separate culture at the Old Salt Lake the American culture (1854-1901) and its contribution to California's history of resource extraction?

Starting with the famous Pacific Salt Works Company and the extensive water works at the site. Many of the celebrated pioneers of Los Angeles County were patrons of the works. The last salt production operation was under the name "Redondo Salt Works" and the salt actually won a bronze metal at the 1900 International Universal Exposition at Paris (catalog detail below). Then, the salt works ended the next year. The actual how and why the salt works ended is interesting, the place was leased to a salt trust in 1902 who were in the business of putting independent salt operators out of business. So, I propose the end date of the American culture period of significance at the Old Salt Lake be the date when salt was last produced at the works, 1901.

There is also no ethnographic recognition of the Corporate culture (1902-current) which continued the fresh water extraction operation by forming water companies. Henry Huntington and other large corporations dominate the cultural landscape of this period of significance here. The significance of this culture is its ecological, as well as, historical footprint.

Perhaps the recent California Coastal Commission report on wetlands status and its inspection of the Old Salt Lake site noting salt crust where the lake used to be signals the near end date of the Corporate culture period here and its ecological and historical footprint.

Years ago, I identified the core of the integrity issue - the still open scientific inquiry about the source and status of the salt in relation to the source of fresh water. To discuss the integrity of the Old Salt Lake site as an ethnographic resource, you first need to know how the place worked as a natural resource and the status of those resources.

Historical footprint continues in the PSA Ethnographic Resources write up: 1) establishing the period of significance ending at 1835 and, 2) excluding ethnographic recognition to the separate American and Corporate cultures who extracted natural resources from the Old Salt Lake and their contribution to California's history of resource extraction.


1901, Report of Commissioner-General for the United States to the International Universal Exposition at Paris, 1900, Senate, 56th Congress, 2d Session, Document No. 232

_____ page 275 _____

"Salts, Redondo Salt Works, Los Angeles, Cal."

_____ page 322 _____

"Redondo Salt Works, Los Angeles, Cal.; Table salt in glass jars."