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Voice: Water transfer decision time on fallowing

April 05, 2002

The draft environmental impact report for the San Diego water transfer has finally come out. It weighs about 25 pounds and cost the Imperial Irrigation District about $6 million. We knew that it would not be friendly, and we weren't disappointed. It basically says that a water transfer that reduces the flow of water to the Salton Sea would hasten its demise, and that would have to be mitigated.

The EIR narrows the Salton Sea mitigation down to two plans. HCP 1 is the plan to be used if the IID becomes more efficient and reduces the flow of water to the sea, making it smaller and saltier. When the sea becomes so salty that the fish can't reproduce, IID would have to build and operate a huge fish hatchery to provide food for the fish-eating birds that are feeding off of the sea.

Later when the sea becomes so salty that the fish can't live there anymore, the IID would have to build a series of lakes equaling 5,000 acres to provide a place to put the fish to feed the birds. The IID would also have to build some nesting islands and mesquite habitat along with some dual drain ditches for selenium problems and cross ditching for pupfish.

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The report doesn't address the damage that HCP 1 would do to the restoration effort for the sea, or some of the potential legal problems that could come from the property owners, or the premature death of the sport fishery. It could become very expensive.

The other Salton Sea mitigation option in the EIR is HCP 2. The idea is to fallow some farmland to generate and transfer water in such a way that it does not affect the sea. This has third-party impacts that would have to be mitigated and has about zero political support. Not much work has been done on the mitigation costs, because nobody wants to be connected to fallowing. I think that there is enough transfer money to make fallowing beneficial to the Valley if the money is spent and divided wisely. It certainly needs to be looked at because the HCP 1 is so ugly.

DON COX

Brawley

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