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Bureau releases EIS related to Coachella Canal lining proposal

April 27, 2001|By DARREN SIMON, Staff Writer

The final environmental report that would lead to the lining of the Coachella Canal, a key part of the state decreasing its use of Colorado River water, has been released by the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation.

The lining of the Coachella Canal is part of a more than $200 million package approved by the state that includes lining the All-American to conserve water.

Water conservation has become a critical issue for the state as it works toward an agreement with the six other states that depend on the Colorado River.

The California Colorado River Use Plan calls on the state to cuts its use of the Colorado from more than 5 million acre-feet per year to 4.4 million acre-feet.

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The seven basin states that depend on the river are California, Colorado, Arizona, New Mexico, Nevada, Utah and Wyoming.

To reach its goal the state is going to have to conserve water and the lining of the All-American and the Coachella canals are key parts of the effort.

While the canals would be funded through the same pot of state funds, the canal linings are being treated as individual projects.

The environmental reports for the All-American projects were completed in 1994 and a record of decision was released by the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation at that time. The environmental reports for the Coachella project were delayed because of lack of funding.

There are two environmental reports involved. One is a federal report called an environmental impact statement; the other is a state document known as an environment impact report. Both reports have been released in final form.

Paul Rose of the Bureau of Reclamation said it will have a hearing on May 25 to render a final decision on the EIS.

The Coachella Valley Water Authority is the agency that finalized the EIR, Rose said.

He said should the reports be approved, the lining of the All-American and the Coachella would move step closer to coming to fruition.

The state has set a deadline of 2006 to have the lining projects completed.

However, there is one problem officials are concerned could stand in the way of the projects.

As a result of the state's energy crisis, state officials tapped into the $200 million set aside for the canal-lining projects. State officials have given assurance the money would be returned.

Imperial Irrigation District Board of Directors President Andy Horne said he has concerns about the money being returned, despite promises.

IID officials have said the canal-lining projects must occur. They said the water conserved by lining the All-American would be used in part to comply with agreements that call for IID to transfer water to the San Diego County Water Authority, the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California and CVWD.

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

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