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ID shows it's ready to do battle over proposal to tap into Colorado River

February 07, 2001|By DARREN SIMON, Staff Writer

By a unanimous vote Tuesday, the Imperial Irrigation District directors sent a message to the San Diego County Water Authority that IID is ready to fight an aqueduct being built to ship water to the coast.

The message came in the form of an IID resolution against San Diego or any other water agency building an aqueduct to tap into the Colorado River.

The board's action Tuesday came two weeks after the directors said they would delay such a vote for 60 days to avoid jeopardizing funding IID was seeking from the state for the building of reservoirs to capture river water in years of surplus.

IID directors said during the previous meeting that to take action against San Diego building an aqueduct might prompt the state to withhold the reservoir funding out of concern the two water agencies were not united.


On Tuesday the directors adopted the resolution against the aqueduct, stating they no longer have to fear the state withholding money.

IID Director Bruce Kuhn said the state already has taken away funding for the lining of the All-American Canal in response to the state's power crisis, so there is no money for reservoirs.

"The state has raided our money," Kuhn said, adding the board now has nothing to lose in taking the stand against the aqueduct.

"My question to the board is, why are we the ones who cannot rock the board?" Kuhn added.

IID Director Rudy Maldonado, who had said the board should not take a stand against San Diego building the aqueduct, changed his opinion.

Stating he does not think San Diego can be trusted, Maldonado not only approved the resolution against the aqueduct but voiced concern about the Imperial Valley transferring 200,000 acre-feet of water each year to San Diego.

"If we have someone we can wheel our 200,000 acre-feet to other than San Diego I would embrace that concept," Maldonado said.

He said he lost trust because of an action the SDCWA recently took to approve filing a lawsuit against the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California over preferential water rights.

IID attorney John Carter said he is unsure if San Diego had filed that lawsuit as of Tuesday.

Maldonado said, "Whose to say that with our transfer 20 years down the line they won't sue us?"

IID officials said they realize formally opposing the aqueduct will not stop SDCWA from continuing to pursue the aqueduct. Still, they said the goal is to send a message to San Diego and the entire state that IID will wage a battle against the building of the aqueduct.

"The board made a strong statement to San Diego we will not tolerate any more straws in the Colorado River," said Director Stella Mendoza, who asked the board to take action on the resolution rather than wait 60 days as per the decision two weeks earlier.

Mendoza said she was concerned by actions San Diego water officials have recently taken that push forward the aqueduct plans.

Bob Campbell, executive assistant to the SDCWA general manager, said the authority is taking a serious look at building an aqueduct to carry water from the Valley to the coast.

At a recent SDCWA meeting, its board authorized the general manager to sign an agreement of cooperation to work with "private entities" interested in seeing an aqueduct built that would run through Mexicali and supply water to both Tijuana and San Diego.

The SDCWA is working with Mexico on a cooperative study to look at a joint aqueduct.

"We need to keep our options open," Campbell said, adding San Diego has an agreement with the Metropolitan Water District to the coast but that agreement ends after 30 years.

The agreement between IID and SDCWA extends 45 years in its initial phase and is set to run 75 years in total.

He said San Diego is going to need some method of transferring water and an aqueduct is an important option.

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

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