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IID board lets on-farm conservation guidelines remain unchanged

November 20, 2001|By RUDY YNIGUEZ, Staff Writer

The most important comment coming out of the Imperial Irrigation District's workshop Monday about on-farm conservation guidelines is that the guidelines are not final and comments from interested parties is welcome.

Besides that, the proposed guidelines have not changed much from about 20 months ago when they were last discussed at the IID board level.

The guidelines are intended to be the ground rules by which farmers who voluntarily participate to conserve water for the pending transfer from IID to the San Diego County Water Authority would be required to follow.

Some of the key issues being proposed under the guidelines are:

· no fallowing

· all of a landowner's lands would be committed to the program, and if a landowner had more than one tenant, the landowner would be required to make separate arrangements with each tenant to ensure the quantity of water to be conserved is conserved. The committed lands could be sold, but the new owner would be obligated to meet the conservation requirements. IID would not come between landowners and tenants. Participating lands would have their titles encumbered.

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· a maximum of 1 acre-foot of water per acre of land per year could be conserved.

· any inadvertent excess use of water by the district would be repaid in the form of lesser deliveries to those farmers who used more than they were allotted and by those not participating in the transfer program. It was explained that it would be assumed that if all of those farmers participating in the transfer were conserving the required amount, it must be those not participating who are using the excess amount.

· participating farmers would get 85 percent of the revenues from the sale of water.

· IID would keep 10 percent of the revenues to pay for administering the program, environmental mitigation, lost power and water sales and to recover costs of legal and environmental processes.

· the community would get 5 percent of the revenues through some form of community betterment or economic development.

· all participating farmers would get an allocation based on the history of use from 1987 through 1995. The lowest and highest years of consumption would be excluded.

· because it is cheaper to implement water conservation at the system level than on-farm, it is proposed that in 2002, system water alone be transferred to San Diego; from 2003-2009, system and on-farm water be transferred; and from 2010-2026, only on-farm conserved water be transferred.

A number of questions were asked about the guidelines.

Brawley-area farmer Michael Cox asked why the community should get 5 percent of the proceeds. He said the farmers are prohibited from fallowing, thus ensuring no loss of local jobs, and that the community is not required to do anything to support the transfer.

IID Board of Directors President Andy Horne said the percentage is the result of discussions with the community, but that the board did not come up with it.

Elston Grubaugh, IID principle technical adviser of the resources planning and management department, said the money for the community is because the transfer is intended to protect the Imperial Valley's water rights and because it was intended to benefit the community.

How much the water will actually sell for is not yet determined. The price that has been used is $249 an acre-foot to start, with it increasing as a discount on the price is reduced during the first 17 years of the 75-year transfer. At Monday's workshop, however, no firm price could be determined because it is still under negotiation between the IID and San Diego.

Under the transfer agreement, the price is based on the cost of water from the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California and what it costs to move it to San Diego through MWD's system. The estimated cost to wheel the water is lower than the actual cost agreed to between San Diego and MWD, which would make the actual price somewhat less than $249. However, representatives of IID and the SDCWA are negotiating a new price to reflect the actual wheeling cost.

Horne said an agreement has been reached that is "fiscally neutral" to the IID, but that the agreement has not been codified.

A representative of the SDCWA, however, appeared to disagree. Bob Campbell, executive assistant to the SDCWA general manager, said the negotiators are "truing up" the cost and the difference in the wheeling rates would be shared equally between IID and San Diego.

There also was a discussion about whether or not farmers being paid by IID to conserve water would be required to pay prevailing wages for the construction of conservation projects as government agencies are required to pay under state law.

On-farm water conservation would be implemented by reducing the amount delivered, and Grubaugh said the same system for historically measuring deliveries would be used for the transfer.

Finally, it was announced that due to a delay in the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation's side of the transfer's environmental impact report/environmental impact statement, the release of the draft EIR/EIS has changed from Dec. 7 to Jan. 11.

No decision were made at the workshop, and a second workshop is scheduled for 3 p.m., Dec. 17 in the William R. Condit Auditorium, 1285 Broadway, El Centro.

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