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Hunter introduces bill seeking funds for environmental mitigation related to IID water transer

August 04, 2001|By RUDY YNIGUEZ, Staff Writer

Federal legislation in support of the transfer of conserved water from the Imperial Irrigation District to the San Diego County Water Authority, money for environmental mitigation for the Salton Sea as a result of that transfer and money for building water-storage reservoirs in the vicinity of the All-American Canal was introduced Thursday by Rep. Duncan Hunter, R-Alpine.

The bill would eventually provide $60 million for environmental mitigation of the Salton Sea as a result of the eventual transfer of as much as 200,000 acre-feet of water from the Imperial Valley to San Diego and another 100,000 to the Coachella Valley Water District.

The bill would eventually provide $53 million for the construction of two reservoirs in the vicinity of the All-American Canal.

"My legislation settles a long dispute regarding California's consumption of Colorado River water and also ensures that water will be used more efficiently and available to those who need it," Hunter said in a prepared statement. "The bill also works to protect and continue restoration efforts for one of California's best natural resources, the Salton Sea, which remains a top legislative priority."

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IID board President Andy Horne said the two reservoirs would have a combined capacity of about 11,000 acre-feet and that one would be in the vicinity of the Westside Main Canal turnoff from the All-American Canal and the second would be just downstream of the Coachella Canal turnoff.

Hunter spokesman Michael Harrison said Hunter will continue to seek funding for the long-term restoration of the Salton Sea, as Hunter has done yearly.

"The legislation is not intended to damage the Salton Sea," Harrison said Friday.

In addition to supporting the transfer and mitigation efforts for the sea, the bill would preclude environmental groups from filing lawsuits to stop the water transfers based on potential environmental effects to the sea from a loss of water due to the transfers, unless certain conditions have been met.

In addition to facilitating the water transfers, the legislation seeks to affirm the agricultural quantification settlement agreement, whereby IID would voluntarily cap its yearly draw from the Colorado at 3.1 million acre-feet, from which it would make all transfers. From that 3.1 million acre-feet, IID would continue to transfer up to 110,000 acre-feet yearly to Metropolitan under the IID/MWD 1988 conservation agreement, up to 200,000 acre-feet to San Diego and up to 100,000 acre-feet to Coachella with this latter one in two separate transfers.

Under the 1988 IID/MWD agreement the water sold to MWD is at cost. The first 50,000 acre-feet sold to Coachella would be at $50 an acre-foot plus environmental costs and inflation, the second 50,000 at $125 acre-foot plus costs and inflation, and the water to San Diego would start at about $220 an acre-foot with future prices to be redetermined.

Also, IID would give up 67,700 acre-feet from the pending lining of the All-American Canal, 11,500 acre-feet to miscellaneous and Indian present perfected rights and up to 125,000 acre-feet from its priority six waters, when available.

In exchange for the water, the Imperial Valley would get "peace" on the river. Coachella and IID would agree to not challenge the other's use of water. MWD would agree to not challenge IID's use of water for at least 20 years, maybe longer.

The quantification settlement stems from California's use of as much as 800,000 acre-feet yearly of Colorado River water more than its legal apportionment of 4.4 million.

IID earlier this year voted to support Hunter's legislation. The Salton Sea Authority Board of Directors did likewise, while the county Board of Supervisors delayed action on the issue recently because the language was not yet known.

Meanwhile, it is still undecided by Congress which of several long-term alternatives it will chose as the preferred alternative to restore the Salton Sea, which is plagued by high salinity.

County Supervisor Wally Leimgruber, a Salton Sea Authority Board of Directors member, said no decision has been made.

He said a solar pond evaporation system appears to be the most reasonable, with estimated costs of $60 million.

The bill is H.R. 2764.

Staff Writer Rudy Yniguez can be reached at 337-3440.

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