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Voice: Fallowing may be the only way to pull of deal

October 05, 2001

What a difference a few years make. Five years ago I was running for the Imperial Irrigation District board and campaigning against the Bass brothers buying farmland and selling the water. Five years later I am saying that maybe we need to talk about idling some of our farmland to protect our valley's interests.

Since the Salton Sea environmental impact report came out, it has become obvious that a water transfer that substantially reduces the water flowing to the sea will cause huge, expensive problems for the sea. The San Diego water transfer program will do just that. It requires the type of conservation that would reduce the flow of water to the sea significantly.

Because the sea has become a critical part of the Pacific Flyway and supports so much wildlife, I think the regulators and environmentalists will fight to keep it alive. The IID needs to be very careful. These are tricky waters.

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The IID has made an implied commitment to the state and federal water agencies to transfer 200,000 acre-feet of water to the coast, and I think it will get pretty ugly if we don't honor that.

The only practical way to avoid damage to the sea and transfer that much water is to idle about 10 percent of our farmland. This is certainly not popular politically, but I think it needs to be looked at seriously. I believe it can be done without hurting our valley's economy. Having the buyer of the transfer water subsidize the bringing in of dairies to offset the economic impact might be one of the ways.

If my economics is any good, 30 1,000 head dairies would offset the job loss and financial impact that would come from idling low labor crops like alfalfa or Bermuda grass.

I believe the current San Diego deal will fail when the farmers get to vote on the transfer. We need to find a replacement that is better. Let's start talking about it.

DON COX

Brawley

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