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Our Opinion: Fight the power

May 25, 2002

It is no surprise that our state's leaders are attacking the Imperial Valley in what seems an orchestrated attempt to get our most precious resource: our water.

It has been said countless times that water is more precious than gold in the West, and as California has grown and grown, water has become a priceless commodity.

Our state's leaders see the Imperial Valley getting millions of acre-feet of Colorado River water each year and that there are only 140,000 people here. Then they see 50,000 or so votes here and millions and millions of votes elsewhere.

The equation for a savvy statewide California politician is an easy one. It is simply politically astute to try to take our water and move it elsewhere, decades of court decisions and water agreements affirming our water rights be damned.

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So it was not surprising that Sen. Dianne Feinstein has joined Gov. Gray Davis and his minions in telling the Imperial Irrigation District board that fallowing of Imperial Valley farmland is a "win-win" solution. In a letter sent to the IID board this week she makes various threats stating if the board does not select fallowing or another solution, all doom will come down on the district.

The problem is Feinstein offers no other solutions to this dilemma other than fallowing, which she strongly "recommends" (our emphasis) to move water and at the same time save the Salton Sea.

"The more I have become involved in the process, the more I've come to believe that there is no workable alternative other than fallowing," she wrote to the IID board.

Feinstein makes some vague promises about trying to get the Imperial Valley some economic assistance, "contingent on the district deciding to fallow," but says in the letter if the IID board doesn't decide to fallow farmland in the next couple weeks, she will not be able to help us in the 2003 appropriations cycle.

These are no doubt threats to us and our way of life here. Feinstein tries to soft-peddle her stance, in a "Voice of the People" on this page today, but anyone who saw the earlier letter could only see it as strong-arming us into something we know will devastate our economy.

Yes, most of us in the Imperial Valley want to save the Salton Sea by continuing to supply it with fresh water, and most of us want to help San Diego and other areas eyeing our water for their continued growth development, but few of us agree that fallowing huge amounts of farmland is the answer.

Fallowing would be an economic hit that would reverberate and reverberate throughout our economy here, an economy that is finally on the upswing. Businesses would close, people would lose jobs, property values would plummet.

Paying farmers to fallow, which Feinstein suggests as a solution in her letter in today's edition, would help some farmers, and some of that money would circulate in the community. But what about all the money that would go to absentee landlords? What about all that money being siphoned out of our economy?

Our leaders need to stand strong and tall and insist that the deal signed was that any water transferred to San Diego would not come through fallowing of farmland. And we are not going to allow people from elsewhere to bully us into doing something we don't want to, and shouldn't, do.

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