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Voice: Because of lack of up-front money for farmers, Palo Verde-like transfer way to go

October 29, 2001

In the past I have written that the San Diego water transfer will probably fail due to the environmental problems. This time I am writing about some of the other reasons why I think the farmers won't vote for the San Diego water transfer.

The first problem is that San Diego contributes no money up front. Our farmers have borrowed over $20 million so far in trying to put the deal together. That number will climb to over $120 million if the deal goes through. That's because the expensive conservation projects are phased in over 10 years and the money goes out faster than it comes in for the first seven years. It will take more than 12 years to pay out if everything goes all right.

A second problem is the farmers will be faced with possible lawsuits and environmental mitigation costs that will come from shrinking the sea. There is supposed to be a $15 million off-ramp to protect us, but it looks like it is not as effective as we had been told.

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The projects can be stopped, and we won't have to build any more facilities if the environmental mitigation costs run too high. However, it won't give us any money back or keep the revenues coming in to pay off the debt if we have to shut down, and it does not protect the farmers from lawsuits.

A third problem is that this is a 75-year deal and no one knows what the price of the transfer water will be after the first 10 years. It could go to a free-market price that could be much less than the initial price.

The farmers I talk to would much rather have something similar to the transfer program that the Palo Verde Irrigation District worked out with Metropolitan Water District. It's simple and straightforward and in the black. The farmers don't have to borrow money and they are not put at risk. It could be adapted to our valley and make everyone a winner.

DON COX

Brawley

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