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Our Opinion: Get aboard the Norton train?

February 05, 2001

We hope those Imperial Irrigation District officials and other local leaders who say they are enthusiastically embracing Gale Norton and others as they ascend to top federal cabinet positions have thought the whole thing through.

While the new Bush administration may reverse or loosen some of the rulings of the Clinton administration on desert and dunes closures, mining and water-quality issues, and we support much of that if for nothing more than our self-survival, Norton's renowned support of private property rights could forever affect our Valley.

If Norton or some other high-ranking fed were to attack the long-held tenet that water is held in trust for Imperial Valley farmers by the Imperial Irrigation District, and instead pushed forward many local farmers' assertion that the water is a private property right, all hell, and water, could break loose in the Valley.

All pending water agreements with the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, the San Diego County Water Authority and the Coachella Valley Water Authority would fall apart at the seams. Many local farmers and landowners would set up private water deals to far-away areas and dry up their land, meaning farm jobs, spin-off jobs and much of the local economy would disappear. It could mean the end of the Imperial Valley as we know it. Economic progress would stop dead and dry in its tracks.

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And don't think for a second that some of our bigger local farmers, many of whom are longtime, prodigious and enthusiastic benefactors of the Republican Party, won't look to influence the new administration.

Loosening up dunes and desert restrictions could mean more money coming into Imperial County from off-roaders, but how far can money from Doritos, Pepsi and petrol carry our economy? We need farming to keep our economy afloat, and changes in private property rights could mean the sinking of our farm economy.

So jumping on the Gale Norton bandwagon may seem like the thing to do at the moment, but it is important that our leaders know that she could have the power to change life in our Valley drastically for the worse and remain ever-vigilant in regard to that fact.

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