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Power plants, water transfer dominate forum

February 05, 2002|By LAURA MITCHELL, Staff Writer

Mexicali power plants and the San Diego County-Imperial Irrigation District water transfer dominated the topics at a standing-room only candidate forum Monday night.

County Board of Supervisors District 1 candidates Calexico Mayor Victor Carrillo and incumbent Tony Tirado attended the forum in the Imperial Irrigation District's William Condit Auditorium in El Centro, as did District 5 candidates Supervisor Wally Leimgruber and challenger Brawley City Councilman Esteban "Steve" Vasquez.

The candidates were asked about their stands on power plants being built in Mexicali and their solutions to air pollution the plants will bring to the Valley.

Vasquez said the situation should have been taken care of a few years ago.

"Now the fox is in the hen house," he said.

Carrillo said the Board of Supervisors had an opportunity to take a stand on the power plants several months ago but didn't.

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"We could easily not sell them the energy source they need to fuel those plants. That would grab Washington's attention right away," he said.

Leimgruber said as a board member he felt it was important to continue a dialogue with InterGen, which is the owner of the power plant that is not using California air pollution control standards on all of its turbines.

Leimgruber asked: If the board said from the beginning it opposed the power plants, what incentive would there have been for this company to even come to the table?

He said the supervisors have negotiated in good faith with InterGen but have reached their limit. He added the board would discuss the issue at its meeting today.

Tirado said the board would like to stop the natural gas pipeline and the transmission lines.

"The reason is InterGen will not cooperate. It does not want to comply and meet the same standards as Sempra," he said.

Sempra is the other company building a power-generating plant in Mexicali.

There will be more discussion on the matter at today's board meeting, including organizing a protest at the border and possibly at Boston-based InterGen's home office, Tirado said.

IID Director Andy Horne asked the candidates what they think the biggest concern might be for the county with the water transfer and what they believe the county's role is in monitoring and taking action on the issue.

All four candidates said they would not support a water transfer agreement that takes water and does not bring economic benefits to the county.

Vasquez said a water transfer is inevitable but he wants to make sure economic benefits would not be only for San Diego and Tijuana.

Leimgruber said the water transfer should go forward if it does not take jobs from the Valley or create an environmental catastrophe at the Salton Sea.

"The Board of Supervisors has an important role to play in protecting the county from a deal that may do more harm than good," he said.

Tirado said the only way he would agree to idling agricultural land to make the transfer possible would be if a business built a 1 million square-foot building on the land and 10,000 people were given jobs to replace lost agricultural jobs.

He said the county's role in the transfer is to oversee ecological and land-use issues.

Carrillo asked, "Whose water is it? We have to take care of our own first before the transfer takes place."

He said if part of the money from the transfer could be brought back to the Valley, it could be a winning situation for everyone involved.

"We have to save our golden resource," he said.

>> Staff Writer Laura Mitchell can be reached at 337-3452 or lauramitchell9@yahoo.com

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