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IID candidates explain stances

February 14, 2002|By RUDY YNIGUEZ, Staff Writer

Candidates for seats on the Imperial Irrigation District Board of Directors were questioned Wednesday on issues related to the pending transfer of water from IID to the San Diego County Water Authority.

The candidates are John Hernandez and Andy Horne for Division 1, Lloyd Allen and Ruben Garcia Jr. for Division 3 and Gilbert Grijalva and Rudy Maldonado for Division 5.

The candidates were asked which of the water transfer alternatives, as listed in the draft environmental impact report, they would choose.

Grijalva said the best choice would be conservation. He said the district should line canals and make other system efficiencies. He said the majority of the transfer revenues should go to participating farmers.


Garcia said the best choice would be on-farm conservation with system savings and some money for the community.

Horne pointed out the preferred alternative in the DEIR is that no transfer take place and he would be tempted to chose that alternative were it not for the pressure on the district to help the state with its water problems.

As such, he said, his choice is the second alternative, a reduced transfer of only 130,000 acre-feet to San Diego. The alternative includes fallowing to supply water to the Salton Sea for environmental mitigation, which Horne said he is against.

This alternative would generate transfer water through the use on-farm conservation only, and there would be no quantification settlement.

Allen said he supports system savings as a way to get water more quickly to the farm. He defined conservation as growing the same amount of crops using less water. He said revenues could go toward increasing efficiency and thinks 200,000 acre-feet could be saved. He proposed creating a community fund similar to IID's indirect fund. He said he opposes using transfer revenues to decrease power rates because it would benefit the Coachella Valley, which is not contributing anything to the transfer.

Maldonado said he supports on-farm conservation and system savings. He said such savings will benefit the district in the long run, especially with state and federal pressure on IID to participate in a transfer. He said participating farmers should receive an incentive for conserving.

Hernandez said he has not analyzed the draft EIR, but he supports conservation through the lining of canals and use of pumpback systems, for example.

"I think the 200,000 (acre-feet) is not out of reach," he said, adding whatever is decided, the community must work together on the issue.

The candidates were asked how they would handle concerns by Mexico over the pending loss of water seeping from the All-American Canal after it gets lined.

Horne said Mexico raised its concerns when the United States government passed a law to line the canal. He said the issue was essentially laid to rest when the International Boundary and Water Commission ruled the water being pumped in Mexico is surface water of the United States, therefore, Mexico had no right to it. He said Mexico has a valid concern, however, and discussions are under way between the countries to see what concessions can be offered to Mexico.

Allen said Mexico receives its entitlement of 1.5 million acre-feet yearly and an additional 200,000 during surplus conditions. He said Mexico has been pumping the seepage for years for free. He said the issue in an international one to be settled between Mexico and the IBWC. He said the countries must remain on friendly terms, but the water belongs to the U.S.

Maldonado said the issue is a sensitive one and he proposed forming a committee to study the issue and then make decisions.

"We must be respectful of Mexico," he said.

Hernandez said the U.S. must be a good neighbor and suggested someone with ties in Mexico would be the best person involved in the discussions. He said Mexico must be spared problems with water similar to recent problems due to changes in electricity prices. He said the fence between the two countries should be removed as was the Berlin Wall.

"It's dreaming but that's where I want to start," he said.

Grijalva said he is the son of immigrants and the issue is a touchy one.

"But the fact is, the water belongs to the U.S. and not to Mexico," he said, adding the U.S. is a good neighbor and will help with cross-border infrastructure.

Garcia said the Imperial Valley gives water to others, such as the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, so why not Mexico?

"We need to be good neighbors and work with them, not against them," he said.

The candidates also were asked what their ideal transfer agreement would consist of, their position on saving the Salton Sea and what types of power sources IID should develop to ensure future growth.

All questions came from audience members.

The forum was sponsored by the El Centro Chamber of Commerce & Visitors Bureau.

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

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