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IID trying to get handle on mitigation costs

April 03, 2002|By RUDY YNIGUEZ, Staff Writer

LA QUINTA — What will it cost to mitigate the environmental impacts of the pending transfer of water out of the Imperial Valley?

That question was discussed by the Imperial Irrigation District Board of Directors at Tuesday's meeting. IID, under terms of the water transfer agreement with the San Diego County Water Authority, has an upward limit of $30 million over the life of the 75-year deal for environmental impacts.

The district has already put SDCWA on notice that it appears that amount could be exceeded. A second letter re-emphasizing the potential costs and IID's options is reportedly being drafted.

The IID board may cancel the transfer if in its sole discretion the cost of environmental mitigation will exceed the $30 million. At the same time, if other parties step forward offering to pay the cost of mitigation, the transfer would likely proceed.

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Division 1 Director Andy Horne asked IID Chief Counsel John Penn Carter what the status is of estimating the cost, as the information is omitted in the transfer's draft environmental impact report/environmental impact statement.

"The mitigation is included in the (habitat conservation plan) portion (of the draft EIR/EIS) but there are no costs associated with it," Carter said.

District staff is in negotiations with the state Department of Fish & Game and the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service developing a mitigation plan, especially for the Salton Sea.

Carter said once the mitigation plan is finalized, IID staff will estimate the cost of the mitigation. He said at the latest those numbers and mitigation plan would be included in the final EIR/EIS, due in early June.

Carter also said once the estimated cost is known, the IID board may then make its intentions known.

Horne asked that an estimate be developed as soon as possible so the IID board might seek outside sources of money if needed.

Carter said the board has already received information with those estimates, but that the same information has not been provided to Fish & Game or Fish & Wildlife, or the public.

Estimates range as high as $1.6 billion just to mitigate the environmental impacts to the Salton Sea.

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

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