Calexico considers joint powers authority

November 28, 2001|By AARON CLAVERIE, Staff Writer

CALEXICO — The City Council here will consider forming a joint powers authority to address the myriad water issues that affect Calexico and the Imperial Valley, according to Mayor Victor Carrillo and Mayor Pro Tem John Renison.

The authority would be made up of state, county and federal officials, including those from the Palm Desert-based state Regional Water Quality Control Board.

On Tuesday, Phil Gruenberg, executive officer of the regional water board, asked the two councilmen to consider forming the authority. He made the request at an informal meeting attended by city staffers, representatives from R.W. Beck and New River Committee members.

Beck is the Seattle-based company the city has paid to solicit humanitarian loans to encase the New River from the border to Highway 98.


In addition to the city and the water board, the authority could include members from eight other "lead agencies" such as the Salton Sea Authority, Imperial Irrigation District and county representatives, Gruenberg said.

Jose Angel of the water board said Gruenberg will be "making the rounds" in coming weeks, approaching other governmental bodies in the Imperial and Coachella valleys.

The full scope of the authority is still vague, Gruenberg said, but it could begin to take form if Calexico gets on board.

"Calexico is extremely important to me," Gruenberg said.

He added if the Calexico council doesn't decide to join the authority, "I may just dump this thing."

Gruenberg said the goals of the authority will be centered on coordinating disparate efforts of a large number of agencies to clean the New River, save the Salton Sea, deal with sewage from Mexicali and other water issues.

"There are a number of good projects but everyone is working on them in a disjointed fashion," he said.

Gruenberg said the combined might of an authority would allow the Imperial Valley to lobby elected leaders for federal funds for specific projects.

"Legislators would be willing to buy into it," he said.

After he was finished with his pitch, Gruenberg took questions.

Carrillo asked Gruenberg to explain one of his earlier comments regarding "bitter pills" the Valley could be forced to swallow; specifically fallowing of farmland.

Gruenberg said Imperial County cities could buy land to fallow for the benefit of the community.

He said he used to view fallowing as a "bitter pill" but has changed his mind in the past week.

"Cities could buy land to fallow, doing what the Bass brothers attempted to do but doing it for the benefit of the community instead of the benefit of the Bass brothers," he said.

As was reported in this paper, the Bass brothers bought land in the Valley to fallow it and profit from the sale of water that would have gone to that land.

Gruenberg said the same principle could be brokered for civic gain, depending on the economics of the deal.

He said "it doesn't seem like fair play" for farmers to reap the vast majority of benefits from fallowing their land.

"I hope there are not that many farmers here today. I didn't inherit any farmland myself," he said.

Renison said he thought the council should consider joining the authority.

However, as for the proposed goals of the authority, Renison was quick to point out the importance of the field workers who depend on the Imperial Valley agricultural industry.

"I would cry a few tears if we didn't have the farm workers here," he said.

Gruenberg said, "If ag crashes, the whole Valley crashes."

>> Staff Writer Aaron Claverie can be reached at 337-3419 or

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