YOU ARE HERE: IVPress HomeCollectionsIid

IID board plans public workshop on natural gas field

April 20, 2001|By DARREN SIMON, Staff Writer

One day before the Imperial Irrigation District directors are to decide whether to place a bid of hundreds of millions of dollars on a natural gas field, the board will sponsor a workshop to discuss the issue with the public.

The workshop will start at 5 p.m. Monday in the district auditorium, 1285 Broadway in El Centro.

The meeting is designed to allow the public to comment on the idea of investing in a gas field to allow IID to become its own natural gas source.

IID power plants use natural gas as a fuel, and officials have said the fluctuating cost of gas has made it necessary for the district to look at new ways to provide that source.

This summer, district officials have said, customers can expect to pay higher electricity bills because what IID must pay for natural gas has risen three times over what the district paid a year ago.


Earlier this year the district locked in a contracted price for natural gas.

While that locked-in price is three times higher than the year before, officials said it could be worse if the district did take such an action.

That contract ends in September and the district again could find itself subject to higher natural gas prices as the Imperial Valley is still facing 100-plus degree weather.

IID officials have said with the locked-in price, the district will spend about $48 million for natural gas this year. Without a locked-in price that could have risen to $90 million and the cost would have been passed on to customers.

Board President Andy Horne has said IID has to look at all options and one option is to invest in a natural gas well field.

The district is looking at one specific well field. The problem is time to bid on that field is running out. Horne said the district must bid on that field before the end of this month.

That means the board must make a decision during its regularly scheduled meeting Tuesday or call a special meeting.

Horne said the board will meet in closed session starting at 9 a.m. Monday. At 5 p.m. the board will lead the public workshop on the well field issue, during which a consultant will talk about the well field.

Horne said he expects the board will decide whether to offer a bid when it meets in closed session at 9 a.m. Tuesday, hours before the start of the 5 p.m. open session.

IID officials have said there are several questions that must be answered before they decide whether to place a bid.

One concern is whether the well field has enough supply to meet the district's needs. Another concern is how the district would transport the natural gas. One more issue is whether the district would save money by investing in its own well field.

Initially the district would have to seek bond financing to cover the cost of the field. While IID officials have declined to say how much they would bid for the field, they have said the cost would be in the hundreds of millions of dollars.

Savings would be based on how much IID must spend annually to pay off the bond versus the cost of paying for natural gas on the open market.

During an IID board meeting earlier this month, community members told the board it was acting too quickly without sharing enough details with the public.

Former longtime IID director Don Cox told the board he saw crises come and go during his board tenure. He said the board should not act too hastily in response to the natural gas issue.

Cox said the board could be committing political suicide by bonding hundreds of millions of dollars for the well field.

IID directors have said they realize they are moving quickly but have said there is little choice.

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

Imperial Valley Press Online Articles