Bureau of Reclamation: No new canal

October 31, 2001|By RUDY YNIGUEZ, Staff Writer

A new canal to transport water from the Colorado River to San Diego and Tijuana is not going to be built, according to a local senior government official.

Robert Johnson, regional director for the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, which operates the river for the Department of the Interior, said opposition to the building of the canal by other basin states would prevent it from being built.

"It's not going to happen," Johnson said, adding it is politically impossible. "There is a limit to the amount of water that can be transferred to Southern California."

He said the state's coastal areas will only get as much water from the Colorado that can be transported through the Colorado River Aqueduct, or about 1.25 million acre-feet yearly.


Johnson said to build a new canal there would have to be modifications to the international treaty between the U.S. and Mexico, and that is not going to happen.

The issue was raised, along with others, at a joint meeting Tuesday of the Imperial Irrigation District's community advisory commission and Imperial Valley United. The meeting was conducted so Johnson and Salton Sea Authority Executive Director Tom Kirk could make a presentation of the potential economic impacts of fallowing in the Imperial Valley to generate water to save the Salton Sea.

Regarding the new canal — which is undergoing a feasibility study by the San Diego County Water Authority, Mexican water agencies and the International Boundary and Water Commission — Robert Campbell, executive assistant to the SDCWA general manager, said the water authority is aware of the opinion that a new canal will not be built, and that the authority is looking at a number of ways to take IID-conserved water to the coast. Besides a new aqueduct, Campbell said the authority is considering an extension of a 30-year transportation agreement it has with the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California.

The 30-year agreement does not meet the requirements of the IID/San Diego transfer agreement that San Diego obtain transportation for at least 45 years, which is the initial term of a 75-year agreement.

Meanwhile, Steve Hogan, public works director for the city of El Centro, told Johnson he doubts the other basin states would object to a new canal because the water to fill it would come from the Imperial Valley and not the Colorado River.

Separately, IID directors, together and individually, have formally come out against any new canal.

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

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