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Voice: Palo Verde-style land-idling plan best for Valley farmers', community

October 12, 2001

I applaud Don Cox's water transfer letter appearing in this newspaper last month. It is refreshing to read intelligent thought on this subject matter from someone who has a legitimate interest in farmers' and landowners' water rights, as well as the interest of the community at large.

Certainly the current San Diego water transfer plan should be turned down by farmers and landowners. It is simply too risky because of their exposure to environmental and third-party liability. A new agreement, in the nature of the Palo Verde model, should be drafted. Such an agreement should make it explicitly clear that the buyer of the water assumes all liability for any litigable third-party and environmental impacts and that the Valley farmers/landowners and Imperial Irrigation District are explicitly absolved of any such liabilities.

The new agreement should also make it clear that any infrastructure costs, or any other costs or expenses, needed to make the transfer work should be borne by San Diego or the buyer.

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For farmers/landowners to assume any material risks or pay any significant costs to transfer their water to San Diego is about as ridiculous as Tom Sawyer getting his friends to pay him in order that they may whitewash his Aunt Polly's fence.

The economic impact of a Palo Verde-style water transfer that rotationally idles some alfalfa and Bermuda grass farmland would probably have very minimal economic impact on the Valley economy. To gauge such a transfer's impact and test its practicality, it would not be unreasonable to make an agreement for only a few years and for 100,000 acre-feet per year instead of the currently proposed 35-year agreement involving 200,000 acre-feet per year.

Now is certainly the time to begin drafting an alternative water-transfer agreement designed to win the Valley farm support that the current proposal does not have.

TIM HAWK

San Diego

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