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Voice: Water transfer a dead-end road?

June 18, 2001

It looks to me like the San Diego transfer is headed down a dead-end road. I think that the potential environmental costs and liabilities will be more than the farmers want to risk.

The Salton Sea is a huge environmental resource. It has become a part of the western migratory bird flyway. Congress is spending millions on finding a way to save it. The good news is that a way has been found to do that. The bad news is that the San Diego water transfer will affect the solution.

If the transfer shrinks the sea, the costs will increase dramatically. The cost for saving the sea is estimated to be $10 to $20 million a year if the water going into the sea stays the same. If on-farm conservation reduces the flow to the sea substantially, the costs could climb to $50 million or more a year. This would be much more than the farmers could handle.

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One of the things that complicates finding a solution is that the only way known to transfer water and maintain the size of the sea is to idle farmland, and that is certainly not popular.

The farmers still have to vote on putting up their land to guarantee the transfer water. If they vote no, the deal dies. This could cause big political repercussions.

A lot of effort has been spent by the politicians in Sacramento and Washington over the last three years, and they think the transfer is a done deal. They think it is needed and they are going to be shocked and angry if it falls apart.

I believe it would not be very smart to vote down the transfer without having an alternate plan in hand. A new plan and direction will probably have to come from the farm community. The lawyers have spent so much time and money on this deal that I don't think they will change course even if they know their road leads to nowhere.

DON COX

Brawley

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