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San Diego keeps mum on water poll

June 25, 2002|By RUDY YNIGUEZ

Staff Writer

The results of a survey on how Imperial Valley residents view the pending water transfer between the Imperial Irrigation District and the San Diego County Water Authority are secret — at least so far.

The survey was conducted for the SDCWA by Half Moon Bay-based Godbe Research & Analysis, according to information obtained through a California Public Records Act request by this newspaper.

The results are being considered exempt from disclosure under three exemptions to state law, including for "preliminary drafts, notes or memoranda"; "pending litigation"; and "legal privileges such as the attorney-client communications or attorney work product privilege," according to a letter to this newspaper signed by Daniel Hentschke, SDCWA general counsel.

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As part of the request for information, this newspaper asked for the study results and for details on how the study would be used. SDCWA officials did not supply such information.

Hentschke said he does not know if and when the study's results might be made public nor does he have a final report yet. He said once the results are disclosed they will be disclosed to the public.

The not-to-exceed $23,500 study was paid for from the SDCWA's public affairs budget.

The scope of work called for 500 registered voters in the Imperial Valley to be called and interviewed for 15 minutes "to measure public attitudes about the San Diego County Water Authority-Imperial Irrigation District water conservation and transfer agreement." The study called for an estimated 50 of the interviews to be conducted in Spanish.

A draft report of the study's results was due by the end of May, according to the contract, which also requires the draft results be sent to Hentschke and invoices to public affairs.

It wasn't long after people in the Imperial Valley were contacted that members of the IID Board of Directors were told the study was under way. San Diego County Water Authority board Chairman James Turner was reportedly asked to provide copies of the results and, according to IID directors, he said he would.

"I look forward to San Diego sharing the results of the survey with the IID and the Imperial Valley community," said Stella Mendoza, president of the IID board. "My gut feeling is the majority of the people are not in favor of the transfer. We're extremely concerned with the loss of jobs through fallowing and with what happened in Owens Valley. We don't want that to happen here."

The San Diego County Water Authority has become active locally in addressing the transfer. Advertisements are being run in local newspapers, including this one, and SDCWA General Manager Maureen Stapleton has met with local farmers several times. Stapleton participated in local public events, as has Bob Campbell, an executive assistant to Stapleton.

The transfer would move as much as 300,000 acre-feet yearly out of the Imperial Valley. San Diego would get up to 200,000 acre-feet, and two 50,000 acre-foot transfers would go to the Coachella Valley Water District and/or the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California.

>> Staff Writer Rudy Yniguez can be reached at 337-3440.

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