Subject to Change by Rudy Yniguez: Next state water director no friend of Imperial Valley

June 21, 2002

Back when I lived in Solano County, one of my assemblymen was Tom Hannigan. Today Hannigan is director of the state Department of Water Resources. It's debatable what authority DWR might have over water here, but one thing has seemed clear since he was appointed to the position by Gov. Gray Davis, and that is he is an amiable guy who doesn't appear to have any bones to pick with the Valley.

It seems he just wants to do what is best for the Valley and the state, and urges locals to consider all options when it comes to the water transfer. Knowing politicians, however — and Hannigan is a Democrat who was on the receiving end of at-times angry letters from me — it's possible I don't really know him at all, and some of you might think I'm wrong.

So be it.

Frankly, I've come to like Hannigan because you can talk to him, and he's friendly. Unfortunately, Hannigan is due to leave the department at the end of Davis' current term, and Fresno-area Sen. Jim Costa is the likely successor if Davis wins re-election.


Costa is no friend of the Valley, in my opinion, and that opinion is derived from watching him at work last week when he co-chaired a committee to hear updates on the water transfer.

All of the big wigs were there, from the big four Southern California water agencies to state and federal officials. Another non-friend of the Valley, Assemblyman David Kelley, was also there. I'm disappointed that a member of my own party seems to care little about the Imperial Valley and its way of life.

The problem with Costa is that he's been a big-time player for far too long. He sits up on the dais laughing at what is being said by the witnesses and looking smugly at whoever happens to be saying something with which he disagrees. As far as he is concerned, farmers in his district have been forced to fallow land to save water, and farmers in the Imperial Valley had best do the same.

There should be no doubt, if he gets appointed he will not continue in the vein of common sense shown by Hannigan or his predecessor under Pete Wilson, David Kennedy.

By contrast, a true friend of the Valley is Congressman Duncan Hunter. Although he arrived late to the hearing, he immediately praised the Imperial Valley community for its willingness to step up to the plate and offer some of its life-blood to the state to satisfy its need for water.

He said the Imperial Valley community, through its elected IID board, had decided that the water transfer should be done through the use of on-farm conservation, and not fallowing. He said people willing to pay $1.50 for a bottle of water ought to be willing to pay for the Imperial Valley's water.

Hunter said the problem with the transfer is not that IID is unwilling to save the water and transfer as agreed to in the transfer agreement, rather, that government agencies — state Fish & Game and U.S. Fish & Wildlife — have been leading IID to believe IID's plan to mitigate the Salton Sea would be acceptable, only to reject it at the 11th hour.

"We're grilling the guys that have already signed the agreement," he said at the joint hearing, adding neither agency was in attendance.

It should surprise no one that they weren't at the hearing. Most bureaucracies do what they want and have little to no legislative oversight.

As a result, those willing to save water and transfer it are now being criticized far and wide, including by media that likely have to find the Imperial Valley on the map.

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