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ALL-AMERICAN: Battin plans to monitor usurped canal-lining funds

February 02, 2001|By DARREN SIMON, Staff Writer

State Sen. Jim Battin, who represents the Imperial Valley, said Thursday he was unaware the state tapped into funding designated for lining the All-American Canal.

Battin expressed surprise at the state using all the canal-lining funding — more than $200 million — to purchase power in response to the state's energy crisis.

He said as part of initial legislation approved by the state that called for spending $400 million to purchase power, the state was not to tap into the canal funding.

However, IID officials were notified recently the state spent the $400 million in nine days and then looked toward other sources of funding. It was then the state tapped into the canal funding.


Battin, upon learning Thursday of the state using the canal money, contacted the state Department of Water Resources to discuss the matter.

He later contacted a reporter to say he had spoken with Tom Hannigan, director of the DWR, who told him that indeed the canal funding had been used. Battin also said Hannigan assured him the money would be replaced as the state prepares the 2001-2002 budget.

Still, Battin said he would need to monitor the situation to assure the funding is returned. He said the canal lining is too critical an issue to let slip through the cracks and he said he would not let that happen.

The lining of the All-American has been called a key part of the water agreements that would create peace between water agencies in the state and among the seven basin states that depend on the Colorado River.

The canal lining would enable the Imperial Valley to conserve water that would be shipped to areas such as San Diego and Los Angeles as part of the water agreements.

Brad Luckey, IID's executive officer, said this morning he is pleased to hear Battin plans to monitor the canal-funding situation.

However, he said there is no proof the money will be replaced. He said the state is focused on the power crisis and is still spending millions daily to purchase energy.

Luckey said of the canal funding, "I will not be comfortable until that funding is reappropriated and encumbered so it cannot be touched," Luckey said.

He added if the money is going to be replaced, now is the time for IID, together with other water agencies in the state, to lobby for more funding.

He said the $200 million is not enough to cover all the costs tied to the canal-lining.

Luckey said $280 million is needed to line both the All-American and the Coachella Canal, and build reservoirs in the Imperial Valley that would capture Colorado River water in years of surplus.

Staff Writer Darren Simon can be reached at 337-4082.

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