Sea authority: Transfer would be ‘catastrophic' to sea

April 19, 2002|By RUDY YNIGUEZ

Staff Writer

BRAWLEY — The effects on the Salton Sea by the transfer of water from the Imperial Irrigation District to the San Diego County Water Authority will be "catastrophic," according to the Salton Sea Authority board of directors.

That's just the beginning of the authority's comments on the transfer's draft environmental impact report/environmental impact statement.

"The EIR/EIS misleads decision-makers to believe that the proposed transfer project will merely hasten the sea's inevitable demise; that the project's impacts are minimal and mitigable," the comments state. "The EIR/EIS fail to consider the effect of the transfer project on feasible restoration projects, against which relief the transfer project's impacts are shown to be what they are: catastrophic."

The draft comments were presented to the SSA board Thursday and adopted unanimously after some discussion by the board and the public.


The Salton Sea Authority thinks the sea can be restored even under reduced baseline inflows to the sea of 1.2 million acre-feet per year, but not if the transfer results in inflows of 900,000 acre-feet yearly.

"Under the proposed action for the transfer program, the sea would deteriorate so rapidly and severely that there is little likelihood that a restoration program would be feasible," the document states.

The document was criticized in part by SSA board member Andy Horne — also an IID board member — because it broached the issue of socioeconomics instead of addressing issues based on science.

"It's not consistent with the tone of the rest of the document," Horne said via conference call from Riverside.

Horne asked to have the preceding paragraph deleted except for the first sentence. The SSA board agreed.

There was some discussion on whether the draft EIR/EIS should base potential environmental impacts on future hypothetical conditions at the sea. The comments are critical of the use of hypotheticals.

The EIR/EIS significantly underestimates the transfer project's impacts by measuring those impacts against a hypothetically degraded sea environment based on reduced baseline inflows that are based on unsupported assumptions, and it fails to adequately consider existing conditions in its analysis, the document states.

The document goes on to address other issues, such as biological resources, air quality, odors, recreational resources, aesthetics, environmental justice, mitigation measures and cumulative impacts.

Regarding the latter, the document states the EIR/EIS provides little discussion of the cumulative impacts of the transfer with the Salton Sea restoration project.

On the issue of environmental justice, the document states the transfer will benefit the San Diego area while negatively impacting primarily areas adjacent to the sea.

"The residents of these communities are primarily lower-income households, many of retirement age," it states. "The impacts to these communities will include the most intense air quality impacts; death of the fishery, not 25 to 60 years in the future, but within the lifetime of the present residents; odors from exposed sediment and dying fish; recreational impacts; visual impacts; etcetera."

The Salton Sea Authority board's comments on the draft EIR/EIS will be submitted by the April 26 deadline.

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

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