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PEIR: Best alternative is no settlement

February 05, 2002|By RUDY YNIGUEZ, Staff Writer

The draft environmental impact report for the so-called quantification settlement agreement — like the Imperial Irrigation District/San Diego County Water Authority transfer draft EIR — says the best alternative for the environment is that the multi-part settlement not be implemented.

The QSA includes a number of water projects and peace on the river. The IID and the Coachella Valley Water District would agree to not challenge the other's use of water, and the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California would agree to not challenge IID's use of water for at least 20 years, maybe longer.

Locally, the programmatic EIR has not been seen. IID directors Stella Mendoza and Andy Horne said they have not seen it. Horne and Director Lloyd Allen are the IID's water negotiators. Allen could not be reached for comment.

Tom Kirk, Salton Sea Authority executive director, said he has not seen the PEIR.

Tom Levy, CVWD general manager/chief engineer, said he has not seen the document but that his staff helped write it and signed off on it.

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"It's probably going to be a good document," he said.

Patty Brock, SDCWA public affairs supervisor, said the authority is pleased the document was released and the 45-day public comment period has begun. She said SDCWA looks forward to the comments and moving the project forward.

"It's under review," she said this morning.

Dennis Underwood, MWD vice president for Colorado River resources, said its been a Herculean effort to get the various environmental documents out that will allow the water agencies to meet the end-of-the-year deadline to approve the QSA.

"It's a key milestone," he said this morning.

The purpose of the QSA also is to agree upon a plan for the future distribution of Colorado River water among Coachella, IID, MWD and San Diego for 75 years; to facilitate agreements and actions that would ensure the certainty and/or reliability of Colorado River supplies; to assist the water agencies in meeting their water demands without exceeding California's apportionment of Colorado River water, 4.4 million acre-feet during normal flows; to identify agreed-upon terms and conditions for the conservation and transfer of specific amounts of Colorado River water within the state; and to provide incentives to promote conservation of Colorado River water.

The PEIR was released Friday. It lists a number of alternatives. They are:

· alternative one, no project. Under this alternative, the Department of the Interior would enforce the law of the river under its existing terms and require California to divert no more than 4.4 million acre-feet during normal flow years on the river. Under the river's priority system, the PEIR states MWD and San Diego "would be expected to make up a 650,000 shortfall — about equal to what the state overdraws from the river — through other water-management methods or supply options, such as increased recycling and conservation and desalination of ocean water.

· alternative two, implement the QSA while minimizing changes in river diversion points. One approach would be to connect the Coachella Canal to the Colorado River Aqueduct, allowing transferred water to MWD and San Diego to be diverted at Imperial Dam instead of Parker. A second approach would be to connect the All-American Canal to San Diego's San Vincente Reservoir to deliver water.

· alternative three, reduce the IID/San Diego transfer to 230,000 acre-feet. Of that, 130,000 would go to San Diego and two 50,000 acre-foot quantities would go to Coachella and/or MWD.

· alternative four, implement the QSA with replacement water for the Salton Sea through fallowing.

Short of the no-project alternative, the PEIR says alternative four would have the least impact on the environment, assuming conservation actions and mitigation measures to reduce impacts to fish and fish-eating birds at the Salton Sea are not employed as part of the QSA.

The following alternatives were rejected: increased water conservation by Coachella, MWD and San Diego without transfers from IID; alternative water supplies for Coachella, MWD and San Diego, where demands in these areas would be met through the development of alternative water sources and not from IID; and two alternates to reduce groundwater salinity within the Coachella service area through the direct importation of State Water Project water or desalination of a portion of Colorado River water.

One of the PEIR's chapters is on growth-inducing impacts.

For purposes of the California Environmental Quality Act, a project would have growth-inducing impacts if it would foster economic or population growth or the construction of additional housing, either directly or indirectly; or remove obstacles to population growth; or require the construction of additional community service facilities that could cause significant environmental effects; or encourage and facilitate other activities that would significantly affect the environment.

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