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Voice: Water transfer alternative follow-up No. 1

February 15, 2002

This is the first follow-up to my recent "A Reader Writes." No. 2 will deal with where the money will come from to pay for my original idea. In No. 3, I will talk about who should be listening, who's not and why they are doing what they are.

If money were no factor involved in all facets of a water transfer, my ideas are probably the best going, according to two different high-level water officials. Let's take one area at a time.

The Salton Sea: The salinity level becomes stabilized overnight. If the water is transferred as once planned, an initial 20,000 acre-feet the first year and increased 20,000 acre-feet a year of 10 years, to reach the 200,000 acre-feet level, the sea would slowly drop five feet in elevation. Yes, this would expose some shoreline, but this is the same shoreline that was exposed 30 years ago. If we transfer 200,000 acre-feet per year without fallowing, the level of the sea is going to drop. My plan will allow those trying to save the sea an additional 30 to 50 years to come up with reasonable alternatives.

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Water sign-ups: The discussion of who is saving water today versus who did 10 years ago is gone. The task of farmers trying to decide how much water they think they might be able to save and how is now gone. The Imperial Irrigation District no longer has to sign up farmers and landowners. Landowners will no longer have to worry about liens being placed on their property associated with the water transfer. Farmers will no longer have to pay the additional $2-per-acre-foot tax for attorneys' fees they currently are paying annually. Landowners will see an increase in rents.

The IID: With the sale of the water, the IID should have well in excess $50 million a year to return to the farmers, landowners, and the community. (Based on 200,000 acre-feet at $250 per foot). The IID should receive no more than 2 percent for a management fee. They should be compensated for the lost income of 200,000 acre-feet of water at today's cost minus the attorneys' fees. None of this money should go to help the IID financially, meaning with purchases, salaries or anything else. They must learn how to live within a reasonable budget.

Farmers and landowners: Roughly 75 percent of the money should be allocated here. With no attorneys' fees the cost of water should be lowered about $6 an acre-foot to $7. But the farmer would pay $13 an acre-foot now and receive a cash rebate some time in the future. The landowners' water availability charge will go away (about $3 million annually), and be paid $30 an acre annually.

Community: About 5 percent will be left over to be used for scholarships, grants and other community benefits.

Nothing here is set in concrete; this is just a good starting point. Please look for No. 2 in the near future.

DAVID CASON

El Centro

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