Economist hired to review fallowing report

January 31, 2002|By RUDY YNIGUEZ, Staff Writer

The Imperial Irrigation District's community advisory commission Wednesday selected a San Diego-based economist to conduct an independent review of a U.S. Bureau of Reclamation report on what the economic impacts would be to the Imperial Valley from farmland fallowing.

The study also will review the economic impacts of the different methods for conserving water — including fallowing — listed in the transfer draft environmental impact report released two weeks ago.

CIC Research Inc. was recommended by a CAC subcommittee to carry out the $20,000 study, and a unanimous vote formalized the offer. In addition to reviewing both reports, CIC president, Gordon H. Kubota, reportedly offered to appear twice before the CAC and make a third appearance before the IID Board of Directors if needed.

In a Jan. 30 letter, Kubota states the study will take 30 days to complete, once begun. A final report could be submitted as early as March 4. He estimates 140 hours of professional senior economist effort would be needed.


On his resume, Kubota listed experience with agricultural economics and work he has done in the Imperial Valley.

On a related issue, the CAC received a briefing on the draft environmental impact report/environmental impact statement related to the IID/San Diego County Water Authority water transfer. The briefing was given by Elston Grubaugh, IID principle technical adviser of the resources planning and management department.

He said one important issue to consider is, of the four conservation and transfer alternatives in the EIR, who would get the water and at what price. He also urged the CAC to look at the number of jobs that would be created and lost under the different alternatives and under the two approaches to the Salton Sea habitat conservation plan.

The two approaches include a 5,000-acre fish hatchery — what Grubaugh said would be the world's largest — and a wildlife habitat, or the fallowing of farmland to supply the sea with replacement water.

Grubaugh urged the CAC to review the EIR's chapters on socioeconomics and environmental justice.

"In the document there's no requirement that you mitigate for socioeconomic impacts," he said. "You only have to identify them."

Steve Hogan, public works director for the city of El Centro, urged the CAC take a close look at the environmental justice issue because it could be that outside interests are trying to take advantage of a predominately minority and low-income community.

Grubaugh said the IID board chose to voluntarily transfer water because the cost of litigation, likely to end up in the U.S. Supreme Court, would cost too much.

Meanwhile, Don Cox, retired Brawley area farmer and former IID director, said he's concerned that any water transferred to the Coachella Valley Water District will be too low in price when compared to water that might be transferred to the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California.

"I think it's a terrible deal," he said. "I wish there was a way to undo it."

Coachella could buy as much as 50,000 acre-feet of Imperial Valley water at $50 an acre-foot plus environmental costs. A second 50,000 would cost $125 an acre-foot plus environmental costs up to $3.50 per acre-foot to the IID. However, under the quantification settlement agreement, MWD will contribute $75 an acre-foot and all environmental costs above the $3.50 to Coachella for the first 20,000 acre-feet of the second 50,000, and $42.50 an acre-foot and all costs above the $3.50 to Coachella for the remaining 30,000, to facilitate the agreement. Prices will be adjusted for inflation.

Finally, CAC member Dilda McFadden suggested the group have a public meeting to receive input on the transfer and draft EIR from all interested parties, including San Diego-area residents and the San Diego County Water Authority. The full CAC agreed, and a tentative date of March 27 was chosen.

The CAC next meets at 6:30 p.m. Feb. 12.

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

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