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Small turnout for IID/SDCWA water transfer EIR public workshop

March 01, 2002|By RUDY YNIGUEZ, Staff Writer

CALEXICO — Few people showed up Thursday to a public workshop to discuss the $6 million environmental study for the pending transfer of water out of the Imperial Valley.

Three people showed up but left before the workshop was over.

The workshop was the second in a series of three to provide the public with information about the draft environmental impact report for the Imperial Irrigation District/San Diego County Water Authority water transfer. The meetings were also held to answer the public's questions about the environmental study. Workshops were also conducted in Brawley and El Centro.

Some of the topics covered included how IID came to find itself participating in a transfer of water, why environmental studies — one state and one federal — were conducted, the transfer alternatives facing the IID Board of Directors, the habitat conservation plan alternatives for the Salton Sea facing the board, the various conservation measures included in the draft EIR and how the IID/San Diego transfer relates to other water plans in California and the West.

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The IID board, after certifying the draft EIR is adequate, will decide whether to move forward with the transfer. If it chooses to move forward, the board will have to choose which of four alternatives, in what will be a final EIR, to implement. The board also will have to chose which habitat conservation plan to implement.

A 90-day comment period for the public to give input on the draft EIR ends April 26.

The four alternatives are:

· no project, that is, no transfer.

· a transfer of no more than 130,000 acre-feet, using on-farm conservation only. The QSA would not be completed or implemented. Environmental effects on the Salton Sea would be mitigated through fallowing. The definition of fallowing is "the nonuse of farmland for crop production in order to conserve irrigation water, on a short-term or long-term basis," the draft states. This alternative includes sending water to the sea for mitigation of water lost to the sea from the transfer.

· a transfer of up to 230,000 acre-feet. Of that, 130,000 would go to San Diego. The other 100,000 would go to the CVWD and/or MWD. Under this scenario, the water would be saved on-farm, through system savings or fallowing. Effects to the Salton Sea would be mitigated in the previous alternative.

· a transfer of up to 300,000 acre-feet only through fallowing. The draft recognizes that to use fallowing as a conservation method, the IID/San Diego agreement must be changed, as fallowing is prohibited.

The two Salton Sea habitat conservation plans are:

· build a hatchery and habitat replacement.

· use conserved water as mitigation.

The draft includes the expected socioeconomic impacts from the transfer, including fallowing.

It states the best case economically is the water be conserved using on-farm methods. The draft includes which methods could be used.

The socioeconomic impacts are:

· alternative one, no project, a continuation of existing conditions, including the historic variation in agricultural employment levels.

· alternative two, the transfer of only 130,000 acre-feet using on-farm conservation and system improvements. A net addition of 430 jobs and an increase in business output of $32.9 million with on-farm conservation and/or system improvements.

This alternative would result in a loss of 290 jobs and a reduction of business output of $20 million, however, if fallowing were used exclusively for an inadvertent overrun condition.

This alternative would result in a loss of 750 jobs and a reduction in business output of $52 million if only fallowing were used to mitigate the Salton Sea.

· alternative three, a transfer of 230,000 acre-feet. There would be an addition of 660 jobs and an increase in business output of $51.2 million if on-farm conservation and system improvements were used.

If fallowing exclusively were used for this alternative, there would be a net loss of 1,090 jobs and a business output reduction of $75.8 million.

This alternative would result in a loss of 750 jobs and a reduction in business output of $52 million if only fallowing were used to mitigate the Salton Sea.

· alternative four, 300,000 acre-feet transferred using only fallowing. There would be a net loss of 1,400 jobs — 2.8 percent of the total jobs in the county, and 12 percent of farm employment — and a business output reduction of $97.5 million. This alternative would result in a loss of 750 jobs and a reduction in business output of $52 million if only fallowing were used to mitigate the Salton Sea.

The draft document says fallowing would provide some economic benefits, but "the beneficial effects are not large enough to totally outweigh the adverse effects of fallowing."

The draft addresses environmental justice. It says there are potential effects on minority and low-income populations from alternative three and four.

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

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