Board approves water transfer, funding legislation

June 28, 2001|By KELLY GRANT, Staff Writer

LA QUINTA — The Salton Sea Authority Board of Directors voted 4-2 to pass a resolution supporting legislation to implement water transfers and provide money to the Salton Sea.

The authority's resolution supports the legislation on the condition that San Diego County Water Authority and the Metropolitan Water District also approve resolutions. The resolution calls for protection for the authority and other agencies from liability incurred in implementation.

The controversial resolution, similar to one passed by the Imperial Irrigation District Board of Directors on Tuesday, supports a congressional bill facilitating, among other things, the quantification settlement agreement.

The quantification settlement includes the annual transfer of 200,000 acre-feet of water from IID to the SDCWA and 100,000 acre-feet from IID to the Coachella Valley Water District.


A likely method of conserving water for the transfer would require on-farm water conservation in the Imperial Valley, thereby reducing inflows to the Salton Sea.

If not mitigated, inflow reductions would result in increasing salinity and lowering of the sea's elevation.

"The implications for the Salton Sea could be disastrous," said authority Executive Director Tom Kirk.

Despite the potential danger to the sea from the transfers, the bill offers $60 million to mitigate effects on the Salton Sea.

However, the sea may require more than $60 million, Kirk said.

Salton Sea Authority staff recommended to the board that it approve conditional support of the bill.

Wally Leimgruber, authority director and Imperial County supervisor, said he thought conditional support was a good choice provided the resolution addresses impacts on the sea.

Gary Wyatt, authority director and Imperial County supervisor, saw the bill in a different light.

"I couldn't in good conscience vote for anything leading to the demise of what we represent: the Salton Sea," Wyatt said.

The $60 million the bill would offer the sea helped convince director Corky Larson, also a member of the CVWD board, to support the resolution.

"It's just a different perspective (from Wyatt's). I think this would help the sea," Larson said.

What's more, SSA and CVWD Director Peter Nelson said, the bill will tie in support for Salton Sea restoration from other water agencies.

"It's important the other agencies put on record they support Salton Sea restoration," Nelson said.

Authority and IID Director Stella Mendoza voted with Wyatt against the resolution.

"Don't be swayed by this carrot of $60 million," Mendoza told fellow board members. "You need to think long term …$60 million is just a drop in the bucket."

Staff Writer Kelly Grant can be reached at 337-3441.

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