Our Opinion: IID fights back

May 17, 2002

Amid roundhouse swings to its head and body, the Imperial Irrigation District took a brave and dangerous stand this week.

The board said if environmental costs associated with the IID-San Diego County Water Authority transfer top the $15 million mark and IID is obligated to pay under the agreement, the transfer is off, as far as IID is concerned.

If IID indeed cancels the transfer, don't expect all hell to break loose. Count on all hell breaking loose.

If it nixes the transfer, expect our governor and other state officials, water districts in the state, federal officials (including one senator, we hear from a high-ranking source) and other western states that depend on the Colorado River to come after IID. They will want our water and our blood. A reservoir of water agreements depends on this deal going through, and if this section fails, the whole darn dam breaks — good-bye IID-SDCWA deal, so long Quantification Settlement Agreement, adios California's 4.4 plan.


Still, the IID board is doing the right thing. Imperial County is being tasked with both coming up with huge sums of water and saving the ailing Salton Sea, and it is getting almost no help from elsewhere.

If Imperial County saves water on-farm, it likely will worsen the Salton Sea's salt problem unless a way to get fresh water to the sea is conceived and implemented.

More and more those outside the Valley, and some within our county, are pushing for us to fallow farmland to get water moving to San Diego and to keep it going into the Salton Sea. And if we were to do on-farm water conservation, there is no up-front money being provided by SDCWA to help to set up such a system.

On-farm conservation would be a good thing for the Valley and actually help the economy. It is not seen as a good thing for the Salton Sea nor as a convenient thing for the others involved in the process, which means few outside the Valley support the on-farm idea.

So with the governor and his lackeys, the feds, the other Southern California water agencies breathing down our necks to get this deal done and not harm the Salton Sea, and do so by fallowing farmland, our IID directors, in a 4-1 vote with Director Lloyd Allen dissenting, told everyone else involved in all the water dealings that they are going to have to help with the Salton Sea or the deal's off.

That means the other agencies will have to come up with a pretty penny, actually about 100 billion pretty pennies, to deal with the sea under the no-fallowing scenario agreed to in the transfer pact. And the IID board, God love ‘em, is saying no to fallowing, particularly no to fallowing when it is being forced down our throats.

IID Director Bruce Kuhn, never one to mince words, said he will not support a transfer in which the money to pay for it "comes from the pockets of the hard-working people of the Imperial Valley."

That is exactly where everyone else involved is expecting the money to come from, and the IID board is saying "no" with a roundhouse swing of its own.

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