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Three seats on IID board up for election

February 11, 2002|By RUDY YNIGUEZ, Staff Writer

One of the issues that dominates local politics is the pending transfer of water out of the Imperial Valley.

How the eventual movement of as much as 500,000 acre-feet of water — when looking at the big picture — out of the Valley will affect the life of the community, to a large part rests with the Imperial Irrigation District Board of Directors.

Three seats on the board are up for election March 5.

The candidates are Calexico City Councilman Gilbert Grijalva and incumbent Rudy Maldonado for Division 5, job training director Ruben A. Garcia Jr. and incumbent Lloyd Allen for Division 3 and El Centro resident John Hernandez and incumbent Andy Horne for Division 1.

Hernandez did not respond to numerous requests to participate in this feature. He was contacted in person, a message was left with a member of his family and messages were left at phone numbers he provided.

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The main issues that have not be resolved relating to the transfer include how the revenues will be divided, if the community will receive a portion and in what manner; if fallowing will be used as a method of conserving water; what will be the actual economic impacts of the transfer, whether positive or negative; environmental justice, are the people of the state's poorest county being taken advantage of by wealthy counties to the west and north; and what role, if any, will the community play in saving the Salton Sea, or will it be allowed to dry up and make the Imperial Valley another Owens Valley.

The candidates take different positions on all the issues.

Because of the importance of the water transfer to San Diego, and the related quantification settlement agreement, most of the questions surrounded water.

ANDY HORNE

El Centro resident, real estate broker and political gadfly Andy Horne is seeking re-election to the Imperial Irrigation District board.

Horne said he supports the transfer of water from IID to the San Diego County Water Authority if it can be accomplished as originally intended, that is, by on-farm conservation and system improvements.

He said that way local employment would increase. The transfer also can be used to lay to rest allegations IID does not use its water efficiently.

The environmental impacts, especially to the Salton Sea, are challenges that have to be dealt with before the transfer can become final, he said.

The biggest impact will be on the Salton Sea, which stands to lose 1 acre-foot for each acre-foot transferred and will likely have its salinity increase at an increased rate once the transfer becomes a reality.

"I believe the Salton Sea is worth saving," Horne, who is a member of the Salton Sea Authority Board of Directors, said. "The question is, at what cost?"

Horne said with allegations that IID allows too much water to flow into the sea, and now to be asked to come up with water to sustain it, are a big concern. He said local agencies seeking to help the state solve its water problems cannot bear the burden of the saving the sea and the federal government must step in.

Horne said federal legislation addressing the sea's restoration states restoration efforts must take into account the effects of the water transfer on the sea.

If the transfer were to fail, Horne said there would continue to be outside pressure for IID to help the state meet its water reduction draws from the Colorado River, and pressure to fallow farmland will increase.

Horne said he is against fallowing because of the third-party impacts.

How the money from the transfer should be divided depends on how it is generated, he said.

For example, if the transfer water is generated on-farm, he said the lion's share should go to participating farmers to pay for that conservation, plus an incentive. A community fund similar to that created in 1988 when IID signed a conservation agreement with the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California could be created.

Because the whole community has a stake in the transfer, Horne said the whole community should benefit in some tangible fashion.

If the water ultimately were to be generated through fallowing, he said the IID Board of Directors would have to come up with a way to fully mitigate third-party impacts.

Under the transfer agreement, however, he said there likely will not be enough money for on-farm conservation, an incentive and all of the potential environmental impacts, let alone third-party impacts.

On a related issue to the transfer, Horne was asked if the San Diego County Water Authority is an ally or enemy of the IID.

"First, San Diego is in this to further its own interest and will not go out of its way to protect the IID," he said, adding, despite that, it made sense for IID to seek a large urban partner with which to undertake a transfer that will benefit the whole state.

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