Voice: Give San Diego some Salton Sea, New and Alamo river water

June 11, 2002

Someone once said opinions are a dime a dozen, some, I'm sure, overrated. Having given the cost considerable thought, I have therefore decided to volunteer my opinion. The transfer of water is simply a zero sum game; the Imperial Valley will give up some of its water and the San Diego County Water Authority will receive the water, plain and simple. The issue is, how do we ameliorate its impact on the Imperial Valley?

There are various interest groups involved but I think, as in a democracy, it's important to serve the greater needs of the Imperial Valley and not a parochial view of a few special interest groups. With that in mind one has to examine and determine what is the economic base of the Imperial Valley. I think there is no doubt it's agriculture, with water the life blood of this desert region. Consequently, to accept fallowing as an acceptable tradeoff is simply to undermine and destroy the economy of the Imperial Valley, already with the lowest per capita income and generally the highest unemployment in the state.


The Imperial Valley is being told our economy must be the sacrificial lamb so San Diego can satisfy its gluttony for water. If the Imperial Valley has to cut its agricultural acreage, then maybe San Diego should consider cutting its aeronautics production, limit the number of pharmaceutical companies or do away with it professional football or baseball teams. After all, if we have to put people out of work, maybe they should also sacrifice.

In an area where the median price of a home exceeds $300,000, I've yet to hear of any extraordinary conservation attempts or alternative methods (e.g. desalinization plants) of expanding its water supply. Politically we're at a disadvantage. The votes are on the coast. And judging from the rhetoric emanating from Sacramento and San Francisco lately, prior to the November election, it's obvious who is going to take the hit.

If push comes to shove and we're forced to give up our water, my solution is this. Have the SDCWA construct a pipeline to the Salton Sea at the confluence of the New and Alamo rivers. They can have all the salty water from the sea, the untreated sewage and unidentified toxins making their way down the New River, plus salts, herbicides and pesticides from the Alamo River and tailwater. The SDCWA can build a large purifying plant in San Diego, providing palatable final product to their consumers.

Now I know this will make some people unhappy. Many people want to save the Salton Sea at all cost. The property owners along the Salton Sea are hoping property values are going to increase. The bird enthusiasts want a sanctuary for the large number of waterfowl that travel this way. Environmentalists say the absence of the Salton Sea will turn the land into a dust bowl. The fishermen will lose a place to fish.

But the reality is the Salton Sea is an anomaly. It did not exist 100 years ago and was formed when the Colorado River flooded. It is a dead sea and has no outlets. It has become a cesspool for Mexicali with untreated sewage flowing down a leach line commonly referred to as the New River.

While I may empathize with the property owners, I don't believe property values are going to increase. I think the bird lovers would rather see the waterfowl take another route on their way south if that means thousands of birds will be saved from death. Although some environmentalists say the empty seabed will become a dust bowl, I believe mother nature will simply restock it with ocotillo, creosote, desert holly and other indigenous plants. Eventually it will lose its ugly stench.

Fishermen can look at the bright side. By fishing elsewhere they'll be able to eat what they catch without worrying about some future genetic dysfunction. Finally, farmers can continue to focus on farming and not the sale of water.

Will the SDCWA accept this suggestion? Probably not. This is, after all, "just another opinion."


El Centro

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