Our Opinion: Bushwacked in Sac-town

April 30, 2002

Like a scene out of a two-bit crime movie, elected officials from the Imperial Valley were blind-sided by highwaymen, and highwaywomen, from the governor's office last week.

In no uncertain terms these officials — board members on the Imperial Irrigation District — were told to "seriously consider" the use of land fallowing as a means to generate water for transfer to rich urban areas and to save the Salton Sea. IID officials were summoned to talk water transfer and fallowing.

The words "seriously consider" are merely code words for "do what you're told."

Interestingly, the transfer and fallowing are based on fear.

The IID fears the failure to cooperate with the massive movement of water out of the Valley would expose the Valley's water rights to years of expensive legal struggles likely to reach the Supreme Court.

On the other hand, the state — and the IID's so-called Southern California water agency partners — tremble at the thought of the environmental lawsuits that will be filed if the transfers damage the ecology of the Salton Sea. They just want the water, not the hassle.


The easy solution is to transfer the water and generate that water through less farming, or fallowing.

That message was given to directors Lloyd Allen and Andy Horne, the district's two water negotiators, when ordered to meet last week with cabinet-level officials from the Davis and Bush administrations.

Two state officials denied the discussions were within the context as portrayed by Allen and Horne, however, so we're left with deciding which side to believe. Should we believe two administrations whose main interest lies in tapping the liquid wealth of the food and fiber giant that is the Imperial Valley or should we believe the two men who've lived in the Imperial Valley their whole lives and served their constituencies well, though not perfectly, and haven't exactly agreed on many water issues over the years.

There's no question. We believe Allen and Horne. We believe the state needs this water to ensure continued growth in San Diego. (Note: the cross-examination of a San Diego County Water Authority official last week reportedly brought out the truth, that is, the transfer water is not replacement water, rather, it is to ensure the continued growth of the San Diego area.)

In addition, we believe when San Diego and Tijuana build their 525,000 acre-foot capacity aqueduct — also known at the third straw in the Colorado — that will free 200,000 acre-feet in capacity in Metropolitan Water District of Southern California's Colorado River Aqueduct of water previously sent to San Diego. When that happens, those water agencies, the state and the federal government will be back for more.

Just wait and see.

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