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IID board plans to set on-farm conservation workshops soon

November 06, 2001|By RUDY YNIGUEZ, Staff Writer

Within about 60 days, farmers should know what measures they will be allowed to use to conserve water for transfer to San Diego, according to an Imperial Irrigation District official.

Andy Horne, IID board president said the board tomorrow will likely set the dates for a series of workshops on the so-called on-farm conservation guidelines.

The announcement came during a presentation on water issues by Horne at the county Board of Supervisors' committee of the whole meeting on Monday.

Horne said the guidelines will likely include a participation limit of between 0.67 and 1 acre-foot of water per acre of land.

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Division 2 Director Bruce Kuhn added there is a big push at the IID to allow farmers to choose whatever method they want to save the water, and that any participation contract with the IID would have to include the landowner and the tenant, if any.

"There will have to be some coordination and cooperation between those two," Kuhn said.

For the IID/San Diego County Water Authority transfer to occur, a minimum of 130,000 acre-feet of the amount to be transferred must come from on-farm conservation, according to the agreement.

"The deal does not start unless we have a commitment from the farmer," Horne said.

Horne's presentation was an overview of issues, including the IID/San Diego County Water Authority transfer, IID water rights protections, the south state's growing need for water and fallowing farm ground to generate water to save the Salton Sea.

Horne said it would take about 100,000 acres of fallowed farmland to supply all of the water sought. That includes about 53,000 acres to supply the IID/San Diego transfer and quantification settlement, about 18,000 acres to make up for lost inflows to the sea from farm runoff and about 30,000 acres to build solar evaporation ponds on farmland to remove salt from the sea.

Horne said the Salton Sea is worth saving but not at the cost of ruining the economy of the Imperial Valley. He said in discussions between IID staff and staff from the U.S. Department of Fish & Wildlife, it has been estimated that wildlife mitigation costs at the sea could be as high as $7 billion. That amount of money would be that needed to ensure an adequate amount of food available for 75 years for the population of birds using the sea.

When asked to define fallowing, Horne said it is the purposeful removal of land from farming with the intention of moving the unused water for transfer outside the Valley or for environmental purposes.

Horne was asked to explain recent comments by a U.S. Bureau of Reclamation official who said a San Diego/Tijuana canal will not be built, and that Southern California is getting all of the Colorado River water it is going to get.

Horne said the comment was made by Robert Johnson, regional Reclamation director for the lower Colorado.

"That's his opinion, I hope he's right," Horne said, adding the large population on the coast will be able to figure out how to get more water from the Imperial Valley if need be.

Horne said the San Diego County Water Authority and the Mexican government have commissioned a feasibility study on the canal. The expected capacity would be 500,000 acre-feet yearly. Of that 200,000 would be for Mexico and 300,000 for San Diego. With the IID/San Diego agreement for 200,000 acre-feet, Horne said there would be available space in the canal for additional water. He also said the transportation of IID-conserved water to San Diego in a new canal would make an equal amount of space available in the current conveyance system: the Colorado River Aqueduct, owned by the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California.

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

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