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IID opposes fallowing land to restore sea

November 07, 2001|By RUDY YNIGUEZ, Staff Writer

The Imperial Irrigation District Board of Directors voted unanimously Tuesday to adopt a resolution opposing the use of land fallowing as a means to generate water to help restore the Salton Sea, despite being asked to keep all options open.

Division 2 Director Bruce Kuhn said he opposes fallowing because of the potential economic impacts to the Imperial Valley.

"I am not going to do anything to kill the Valley to save the sea," he said.

Board President Andy Horne said the federal government should help with mitigation efforts to save the sea instead of suggesting that revenues from the IID/San Diego County Water Authority be used to pay for mitigation. Horne was referring to comments by Robert Johnson, U.S. Bureau of Reclamation regional director for the lower Colorado River basin, who said IID should seriously consider fallowing.

"I find that offensive," Horne said, adding it also was offensive that Johnson said Mexico cannot build a canal to move water from the Colorado to Tijuana.

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The proposed canal would have sufficient capacity to move IID-conserved water to San Diego. A feasibility study on the canal is under way.

The board was asked by Brawley resident Don Cox — a former IID director — to delay adoption of the resolution.

Cox said when he last ran for election he campaigned against fallowing but that the expected costs of the potential environmental impacts to the sea from reduced inflows from conserving water changed his mind. He said it would be cheaper to fallow land to save the sea than to use pumpback systems, which is the most likely method of conserving water as outlined in the IID/San Diego transfer agreement.

Cox reminded the board that under state law, domestic use of water has a higher priority than agricultural use, and that if the water transfer fails the situation locally could become ugly. He said IID should get on the offensive and develop numerous plans of action.

Cox's son Michael said the IID board should keep all alternatives open in light of the cost of on-farm conservation measures, the lack of up-front money for conservation and the recently agreed-to fallowing agreement between the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California and farmers in the Palo Verde Valley.

He said it would be premature to take a position against fallowing.

Horne responded by saying even if the district were to allow the fallowing of land to generate water, there would still be challenges to the Valley's reasonable and beneficial use of water by Reclamation because of alleged inefficient farming practices.

Cox's son Larry, commenting on the recent visit to the Imperial Valley by the general manager of the San Diego County Water Authority, said he would like discussions on the water transfer to begin among the Imperial Valley Vegetable Growers Association, the Imperial County Farm Bureau and the IID.

The visit drew criticism from the IID board.

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

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