Our Opinion: A proper proposed delay

January 28, 2001

With water issues, there is no denying one issue is tied to another. For that reason we support a recent move by Imperial Valley residents on the technical advisory committee assigned by the state to review the issue known as total maximum daily load, or stated more simply, water quality.

The technical advisory committee has asked that the state delay new TMDL requirements until more information is known on issues such as the transfer of 200,000 acre-feet per year of Imperial Valley water to San Diego and the proposed effort to save the Salton Sea from the high salt content that is killing it.

Total maximum daily loads are the amount of elements such as silt allowed into waterways. Proposed new TMDL requirements, federal standards that would be enforced by the state Regional Water Quality Control Board, would require a sharp reduction of silt in the Alamo River, with more standards on different waterways to follow.


Local farmers have said the TMDL requirements could make it too expensive to farm. Local officials have said there is no sound evidence that reducing elements such as silt will be a benefit to the environment. There is a concern by some in the Imperial Valley that reducing elements such as silt could have a harmful effect.

The point is, the TMDL issue is a critical matter for the Imperial Valley and before we are forced to follow new water-quality restrictions, the state should hold off until more is known about the other local water issues.

The connection between the water issues is not hard to follow. If the water transfer to San Diego moves forward it means local farmers will have to conserve a set amount of water. That likely means less water flowing from farms into waterways and going into the Salton Sea. Less water flowing into the sea could mean the water level will drop and the concentration of salt in the sea will rise.

Similarly, if farmers must reduce the flow of elements such as silt from flowing off their farms, that could mean less water flowing into the sea. Again the salt concentration would increase, meaning the sea could be in even more danger.

We have no doubt there is little that will prevent some new TMDL requirements from moving ahead at some point, although we do expect a more reasonable federal environmental bureaucracy with the new Bush administration in Washington. However, we see no reason new requirements could be held off until there is more understanding of these issues.

We urge the state to consider the technical advisory committee's request. It makes sense to fully understand all the water issues and their ramifications.

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