A reader writes … By Simone

July 20, 2001

Re: OUR OPINION, Sins of the Past, July 6

There is no reason in law or equity to believe the Imperial Irrigation District is trapped or obligated on a contract negotiated by past board members. Notwithstanding the opinions of their "experts" they can and must repudiate the contract and they can do so without liability.

First, IID is a state-authorized dual monopoly. IID exclusively supplies water and electricity to Imperial and Riverside counties. As a state authorized dual monopoly, IID is obligated as a fiduciary under the "public trust doctrine" to not act adverse to those it serves. IID cannot deliberately cause great damage to either those it serves or the greater community.

Second, as anyone can see, there is no "surplus" of water in Imperial County. There are hundreds of miles of barren, undeveloped land in Imperial County alone. Water would certainly change the desert-like conditions of some of these areas. Further development of barren, arid lands depends on a water supply either in the groundwater basin or storage. If there is a "surplus" it should be conserved for development, especially in the areas in northern Imperial County, even if those areas are served by the Coachella Valley Water District. Any "surplus" water should be delivered to the CVWD for development in these depressed areas already not well served by Imperial County.


Third, any proposed water transfer would devastate the Salton Sea. The fresh water ordinarily delivered to the sea would be depleted or non-existent and the sea would shrink and become saltier to the extent it would be another dead sea. The fish would die and migratory birds, after traveling hundreds of miles, would not be able to feed at the sea before moving on, killing them as well.

Neither IID nor the Imperial County Board of Supervisors seem to realize the great potential for disaster if the sea dies even a little. There is no way to ameliorate the damage, not only to Imperial County but to the greater Coachella Valley. The greater the depletion of the Salton Sea, the greater the shrinkage, and wind-borne dust particles from exposed shorelines would greatly increase over Imperial and Riverside counties, clouding the present clear skies more than the burning of farm refuse. Instead of promoting and developing the Salton Sea's potential for recreation and businesses, which would greatly increase the tax base for this deprived area, IID and the Imperial County Board of Supervisors appear to be brain dead in this regard.

Fourth, bearing in mind all the above, how can a water transfer be justified to San Diego (and Los Angeles counties) when these counties do not conserve the water they have? We have to remember they have a substantial amount of RAIN compared to our area. Do they collect this rain and store it? Do they otherwise conserve the water they have or have any mandatory recycling systems in place? Do they treat their sewage for recycling instead of letting it flow into the Pacific ocean? Do they condition any development with demands or ordinances that water conservation be a part of it? Have they depleted their groundwater basins so ground subsidence is a factor as it is in Palm Desert and other areas of the Coachella Valley?

The answer is generally a big no. In other words, these areas are not worthy of a water transfer from an arid, deprived, depressed, undeveloped area. These water transfer target areas are prosperous, well developed, and very, very, wasteful. Should we supply them with more precious water to waste? Obviously, the answer is a big NO.

Fifth, any honest environmental impact report must include all the above. The true facts of the impact and damage on IID and larger communities in itself would provide the way out of the former agreement. The public trust doctrine requires IID to be a faithful fiduciary and provide a complete fact full EIR that includes all the above. An environmental agency decision based upon an accurate and full EIR would certainly be to deny the proposed water transfer. IID would then be legally unable to comply with the former agreement, it would be legally impossible. The legal term is "impossibility to perform." When something is impossible the law will not support enforcement of any such agreement and San Diego (and Los Angeles) County will be without any legal grounds for enforcement. IID just has to be faithful and honest to cancel this agreement.

The "sins of the past" are not binding. IID has a law-supported legal way to deny the past agreements. IID has to act as a fiduciary and cannot inflict such pain and damage on those it serves as well as the greater basin communities. If IID doesn't retreat from these water transfer negotiations, it can expect years of expensive litigation from agencies and individuals around the Salton Sea and in the greater Valley. And who do you think will pay for THAT?

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