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Officials gather for powwow on water transfer economic plan

April 06, 2002|By RUDY YNIGUEZ

Staff Writer

Local officials seeking to minimize the potential negative economic impacts from the water transfer met last week with San Diego area officials to discuss economic development ties.

El Centro Mayor Larry Grogan said the two groups met in San Diego on Wednesday, and further discussions are scheduled. He said the purpose of the talks is to present a united front and to develop an economic plan to offset the potential impacts of the water transfer between the Imperial Irrigation District and the San Diego County Water Authority.

"Otherwise, I see no benefit from the transfer," Grogan said, adding there is no intention to intrude on the IID's authority relating to the water swap.


The water transfer is expected to begin some time next year. The minimum transfer amount to San Diego under the 1998 agreement is 130,000 acre-feet. The transfer would be carried out in 20,000 acre-foot increments and ramping up until the agreed-to amount is reached. San Diego would pay about $240 an acre-foot, $4.8 million to the Imperial Valley in the first year, not the $50 million being bandied about. At that price it would take more than 10 years for the revenue stream to reach $50 million.

Grogan said with that initial amount, it is unlikely there would be much money available to help the community to offset any impacts of job losses.

Others attending the meeting included John Jordan, Holtville city manager; Mark Gran, Imperial mayor; Wayne Johnson, Brawley mayor; and Oscar Rodriquez, El Centro economic development director.

Jordan said it is known there will be some economic impacts to the Valley's cities depending on the degree to which agriculture plays a role in their economies.

From Holtville's perspective, Jordan said housing is the main issue.

"If people lose their jobs they won't be able to stay where they're at," he said, adding the city has out a number of loans for the purchase and rehabilitation of homes.

Johnson said Brawley city officials are concerned that lost jobs will mainly affect low-income, minority workers. He said the San Diego group was approached to see what might be done to help the local economic situation.

"How can they help us create other jobs," he said, adding the San Diego contingent was "very receptive."

That contingent consisted of Bernie Rhinerson, a San Diego County Water Authority board member; Julie Wright, of the San Diego Regional Economic Development Corporation; and Maureen Stapleton, SDCWA general manager.

Rhinerson and Wright could not be reached for comment.

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