IID director praises past board members

February 21, 2002|By LAURA MITCHELL, Staff Writer

Past board members at the Imperial Irrigation District had the wisdom to opt-out when the state decided to try deregulating electricity, Director Andy Horne said Wednesday in a state of the IID address.

He told those gathered for the address that power deregulation hurt communities by causing price increases, power shortages and rolling black outs.

Horne also said while the Imperial Valley did not take part in deregulation, the threat hasn't gone away.

His comments were part of a joint state of the county and IID address sponsored by the Coalition of Labor and Business — a private group working to promote the county — and local geothermal CalEnergy.

Horne said state and federal agencies decided deregulation is the way of the future. The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission is pushing to establish four or five regional transmission organizations that would control distribution of electricity throughout the nation.


"They can't mandate that we join, but they can put a lot of pressure on us," said Horne during the address, which was held at Brunner's Restaurant in El Centro.

The district is also working to make industrial and commercial power rates more competitive to help attract business to the Valley.

One such programs allows the district to cover the initial costs of setting up utilities and having the business pay it back over a period of time.

Power is only part of the district's picture.

The IID operates the largest, gravity-flow irrigation system in the western hemisphere, Horne said.

Improvements are costly but the district is looking at ways of increasing needed maintenance while keeping costs down, he said.

"Our water rights make us the envy of the western United States," Horne said. "We're being watched very closely."

The IID uses 70 percent of California's entitlement to the Colorado River, he said.

As the rest of the state continues to grow, the district is the "deep pockets" everyone will look to when they try to figure out from where more water will come.

A water transfer agreement with the Metropolitan Water District was initiated by the state when it said the district was putting too much water into the Salton Sea, he said.

Another agreement to transfer water to the San Diego County Water Authority is on the horizon.

Horne said the district must consider the effect the water transfers will have on the Salton Sea and costs the district could face in maintaining the sea in light of the transfers.

He said the district is seeking help from the state and federal government on the sea issue.

Environmental reviews on the transferring water to San Diego and the Coachella Valley Water District and MWD have just been released and the district has scheduled public workshops on both reports.

The next workshop is Feb. 28, Horne said.

>> Staff Writer Laura Mitchell can be reached at 337-3452 or

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