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Salton Sea Authority official tells state he opposes transfer projects

May 15, 2002

SACRAMENTO — An official with the Salton Sea Authority has told state water officials the authority is strongly opposed to water transfer projects that would significantly lower the level of the Salton Sea.

In testimony submitted to the California State Water Resources Control Board on Monday, authority Executive Director Tom Kirk explained that the future of the Salton Sea must be factored in to any decision regarding any transfers. He added the authority is not opposed to the Quantification Settlement Agreement nor, necessarily, to the transfer of water from the Imperial Irrigation District to San Diego and the Coachella Valley.

"The authority understands the need and generally supports implementation of the California 4.4 Plan," Kirk said. "However, the authority is deeply concerned about how water will be transferred and the environmental effects of the water transfer."

Noting, "The Salton Sea is one of the most important ecological places in the United States," Kirk said as proposed, water transfers could make restoration of the Salton Sea infeasible.

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The project as presented by the IID suggests that water conservation will occur through reducing or eliminating tailwater and improving delivery systems in the Imperial Valley.

Under efficiency improvements, virtually all the water generated for the transfer is from reductions of inflow to the sea, and none from crop evapotranspiration reductions that would be a result of fallowing land. Generally, water "conserved" through reducing crop evapotranspiration would limit damage to downstream uses like the Salton Sea.

"That difference between restoring the sea under current inflows and restoring the sea under reduced inflows is staggering," Kirk said. "Even if all of the political and financial support were available within a few years, it is unlikely that restoration could occur in time to preserve a fishery at the sea and the values that the fishery supports."

Kirk also criticized the reasoning of those who say the sea is going to die anyway and the transfer is just speeding the inevitable.

"This is the ‘you are going to die anyway in 50 years, mind if I shoot and kill you today argument.'"

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