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Voice: Fallowing farmland would create massive economic blight

May 30, 2002

I would be proud to use San Diego money to make my water use more efficient so new water could be sent to San Diego to enhance its future. Feed the "Imperial Valley chicken," and we will happily provide eggs. But don't expect us to provide ham from our own leg for someone's breakfast.

This is not the pre-Magna Carta era when the king can put on his hobnailed boots and run roughshod over the peasants, taking whatever catches his eye! Enough of the threats, already! Imperial Valley need not, and must not, give in to the bullies.

Since the 1980s we have been asked, told and expected to become more water-efficient so Southern California coastal users could have more water to fuel their economy and flush their ever-increasing number of toilets. They were to pay the cost; we would make ourselves more efficient, keep our farms producing food, and enhance our economy.

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To expect us to fallow, create a 50,000- to 80,000-acre blight of barren wasteland checkerboarding our neighborhood and flush our economy down the toilet is unreasonable. Remember that fallowing leaves the land without any water, even to convert it to city or industrial uses. It would also scar our economy far beyond what we imagine, and for a long time.

Many would benefit greatly from this transfer. San Diego would be able to better serve its community and grow. The MWD service area would benefit by receiving a declining amount of "surplus" water from the Colorado River for the next 14 years. Northern California and the Bay-Delta environment would benefit by a reduced demand for water for Southern California. The nation could benefit if wildlife habitat were maintained, which would otherwise decline with the inevitable salinization of the Salton Sea.

If those who benefit from the transfer are not willing to acceptably mitigate whatever impacts occur to the environment, then the transfer should not happen. If the Imperial Irrigation District is already as efficient as it will be permitted to be, Coachella Valley Water District has no claim to any of our water.

The Imperial Valley is an example to the world of what can be done with water. We produce $1 billion worth of farm products and a million acres of some of the lushest habitat found anywhere.

One acre-foot supplies the domestic needs of a family of four. But it takes three acre-feet to provide food for that same family.

LARRY GILBERT

Imperial

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