A Reader Writes: Considering the no-transfer option

December 14, 2001

It is not just the Salton Sea involved in the actions of the Imperial Irrigation District but all of Imperial County and all taxpayers across the state and nation.

The Imperial Irrigation District was ordered by the State Water Quality Control Board in 1984-85 to cease its waste of Colorado River water and to install and implement waste-controlling measures. IID has ignored the orders and filed a lawsuit that it lost and has stonewalled the SWQCB pending the proposed water transfer.

If IID fails to implement the sale of "conserved" water to the San Diego County Water Authority under the Quantification Settlement Agreement for the next 75 years, the true full length of the water contract under the QSA, maybe not much will change.

That is the point. Not much will change for Imperial County if no sale is made.

IID will still receive Colorado River water but not as much as previously. Selling water to San Diego will not give IID any increase in water supply. IID's water allotment will be reduced to its historic right, out of which it still must conserve the water that has been ruled "wasted," 300,000 annually. IID has present "perfected rights" as of June 1929 to amounts of Colorado River water that are the lesser of 2.6 million acre-feet or the quantity necessary to supply the consumptive use required for the irrigation of 424,145 acres and for satisfaction of related uses.


Imperial County will be at a dead standstill, unable to attract industry or developers because its water allotment will remain the same with or without the sale, with no additions unless the conserved "wasted" water is saved and beneficially used in Imperial County.

One should therefore question the IID Board of Directors as to whether these perfected rights extend to supplying freshwater to geothermal plants or new industrial developments. And now that new developments are required to demonstrate a water supply under a new law, do these rights apply to shopping malls or housing developments?

One should also question the IID board whether there is any point in building a beef-processing plant when to raise cattle, one needs water for them to drink and crops to feed the cattle and water to grow the feed?

One should also ask the IID board what is the effect of the proposed sale on the reserve of 123,360 acres of public lands lying below minus 220 feet, created by the U.S. president in 1924 and 1928 to receive and store agricultural, surface and subsurface drainage waters?

SDCWA offers $50 million a year to Imperial County's benefit, they state. But most of that money will be used by IID to implement conservation measures necessary to generate the "surplus" water it will conserve by ending its historic waste of water. Where is the profit if the water allotment is reduced and the sold water leaves and Imperial County farming and growth is stunted?

The proposed water transfers to San Diego would cut off the present farm drainwater flowing into the sea, leaving a shrunken sea with up to a half mile of exposed shoreline all around the Salton Sea. The result would be worse than the killing of Mono and Owens lakes by the Metropolitan Water District. Imperial County would really suffer.

Gone would be income generated from dove and duck hunting, fishing, boating and recreational uses of the sea. Motels, restaurants, grocery stores, gasoline stations, boat rentals, etc. would all see declines in sales and so would the county-imposed taxes.

MWD didn't pay for all the costs of remediation at Mono and Owens lakes. Taxpayers did and are still. San Diego doesn't intend to pay for all the costs of "mitigation" expenses and has had legislators pass or propose bills that provide serious amounts of your tax money (Hundreds of millions of dollars of California taxpayer moneys are funded and waiting for the concrete lining of canals). Right now they want another $60 million of your money to "mitigate" damages to wildlife only, not residents or businesses or Imperial County tax income.

Before San Diego (and Los Angeles) take Imperial County water they should be required to have many water-conservation programs. They only want Imperial County water so they can grow more golf courses and gated communities with more swimming pools and invite more industries to their areas.

While they profess to be concerned about the effects on the Salton Sea, there would be fewer effects if there were no transfer of water to San Diego. The Salton Sea is a healthy bio-diverse multi-species environment that has never been closed to swimming, fishing or boating. The Salton Sea doesn't need the kind of destructive "help" it would receive if the water sale agreement is finally approved. Nothing in the sale agreement helps the Salton Sea or Imperial County, even with the proposed fallowing.

No sale would not only save the sea it would mean less taxpayer money would be spent to cure what wouldn't have happened if no sale had been made. In other words, it's cheaper for taxpayers across the state and nation to say no to San Diego, the sooner the better.

>> SIMONE is a director of the Salton Community Services District and a semi-retired attorney living in Desert Shores.

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