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Our Opinion: Leery of a liaison

September 06, 2001

It is with caution that we welcome the recently-announced liaison to the Imperial Valley from the San Diego County Water Authority, Imperial-resident Rick Strobel.

We say caution because we would not like to see this position become one through which the county water authority seeks additional water above the 200,000 acre-feet already agreed upon with the Imperial Irrigation District.

If Strobel is truly going to try to build more understanding between San Diego and Imperial counties, that may not be bad.

Hiring a liaison is a smart move by the authority. We cannot help but wonder why it took so long in light of the importance of the water transfer and after the beating the authority took when we broke the news about secret discussions between the authority's ruling minority and the billionaire Fort Worth-based Bass brothers to fallow vast tracts of Valley farmland, sell the accompanying water and take the money and run.

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Such a beating should have been a warning to Strobel that he should never, ever say the word "Bass," in any of its connotations, because there is still lots of ill will toward the cattle grazers and big-time money men from Texas.

Even less should Strobel go around telling people that he had financial dealings with the Basses, that he is proud of those dealings or that he "made a lot of money" off them.

It is also not wise to tell people that everything they say to him will be repeated to the San Diego County Water Authority's "IID action team": SDCWA General Manager Maureen Stapleton; Stapleton assistant Bob Campbell; former SDCWA director Chris Frahm, and public affairs representative Patricia Brock. If the SDCWA already has an agreement for all it wants in the Imperial Valley, why does it need an action team?

Having said that, efforts by the authority to have a local contact can work to its advantage to let people know that the authority is being as up-front as possible in its dealings with the Valley's communities. That would be a nice change.

This is especially important now as there is a growing opposition to the water transfer, both on the IID Board of Directors and by those whose environmental interests revolve around the Salton Sea.

We suggest the authority and Strobel concentrate on providing accurate information about what exactly the authority seeks to achieve in the Imperial Valley, how the water will be used in San Diego and to provide assurances that no further water will be sought.

To seek any additional amounts, now or in the future, will relegate the San Diego County Water Authority to being perceived as the origin of any local economic decline by draining the Imperial Valley of its lifeblood.

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