Voice: Feinstein explain sher letter to IID board regarding fallowing

May 25, 2002

In 1996, the secretary of the Interior (the Colorado River water master) directed California to develop a plan to gradually reduce its consumption of Colorado River water from 5.2 million acre-feet to 4.4 million acre-feet. This is known as the 4.4 Plan.

One of the critical elements of the plan was the quantification of water use among California's Colorado River water users, known as the Seven-Party Agreement, and the establishment of a timetable for California to reduce its take of Colorado River water to 4.4 million acre-feet by 2015.

The deadline for the first step in this process is the end of this year. If an agreement is not reached, the Department of Interior has warned that Southern California's allocation of California River water will be cut by 800,000 acre-feet a year. The impact of this loss of water would be devastating.

The Quantification Settlement Agreement involves a water transfer between the Imperial Irrigation District and the San Diego Water District. Under this agreement, IID would lease between 100,000 and 300,000 acre-feet annually to San Diego at a cost of $25 million to $50 million per year for 75 years.


The transfer involves the use of Metropolitan's pipelines and also involves a small transfer of water from Coachella to Metropolitan. All four water districts are signatories to this agreement.

By the end of this year, the IID must make a determination on how it will reduce the use of Colorado River water to enable the transfer to move forward and all parties must sign off on the agreement. Failure, according to the Department of Interior, could result in the immediate loss of the 800,000 acre-feet of water for Southern California.

Several months ago I was asked by the water districts to convene a meeting to help solve the issues raised by the transfer. This meeting was held on April 12 in my Washington Office. The four water districts were represented: Coachella, Metropolitan, San Diego and IID. A method of evapo-transpiration fallowing of land was suggested in order to avoid the loss of 300,000 acre-feet of water to the Salton Sea.

Such a loss would create major environmental damage and leave the four water districts vulnerable to lawsuits.

The fallowing proposal was suggested for 10,000 to 15,000 acres out of a total of 75,000 acres for which the farmers could be reimbursed by the district from the lease proceeds. At that time I offered to try to provide additional help from the federal government in the form of economic assistance and asked the IID to bring me a proposal.

It was agreed that IID would respond after the election. However, there was no official response from IID, and since we are now in the appropriations process, if I am to help with additional assistance, I must know what the community wishes at this time before the appropriations process is completed.

Once IID makes its decision, an environmental impact statement must be prepared — this process takes nearly six months. Therefore the time crunch becomes very relevant.

The purpose of my letter was to spur IID to make a decision and to express my view, based on the meeting we had in Washington, plus my discussions with Interior and the individual districts, that the best way to go, for a period of time, may well be evapo-transpiration fallowing. But this decision is clearly the district's to make.

If the district can come up with another solution that will solve the dilemma, that's fine

I understand the hardships of having to fallow farmland and believe that if this is the option chosen, the farmers should receive financial remuneration directly from the proceeds that IID will be receiving for the water transfer.


U.S. senator

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