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Voice: Water transfer on tap, and troubling

May 08, 2001

The San Diego water transfer issue will be heating up shortly. The draft environmental impact report will be out in a couple months and the Imperial Irrigation District will then be going to the state for approval. After that the farm community will vote on putting their property up to guarantee the deal.

I think the vote has a good chance of failing. Most of the farmers I have been talking to are very concerned about the environmental cost. The biggest worry is coming from the Salton Sea. The deal says the IID will pick up most of the sea's environmental cost.

There is a fairly cheap way to save the sea. The latest study shows that if you don't lower the elevation, the salinity can be stabilized at its current level for about $10 million a year. There are about 5 million tons of new salt entering the sea every year, and with on-shore evaporation ponds that salt can be removed and stored for about $2 a ton.

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However, if water is transferred to San Diego in a way that reduces the flow to the sea, the costs go up dramatically. A 300,000 acre-foot reduction in the flow of water to the sea would eventually lower the sea about 16 feet. There are nearly 220 million tons of old salt stored in that 16 feet. If it is not removed, the salt will move to what will be left of the sea as it shrinks. Its salinity would nearly double in the process.

Removing the old salt could add more than $25 million a year to the cost of trying to save the sea, raising the cost from $10 million a year to $35 million a year.

The farmers I have been talking to sure don't want to end up with those kind of costs.

DON COX

Brawley

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