County, IID officials work on united front

June 28, 2002|By LAURA MITCHELL

Staff Writer

Representatives from the county and the Imperial Irrigation District met Thursday to straighten out differences that became evident this week when the IID opposed and the county supported state legislation concerning fallowing.

County and IID representatives said they realize the appearance of a split makes them vulnerable to outside interests who might want to gain an advantage in water negotiations.

The IID is in the process of approving documents for a transfer of water to the San Diego County Water Authority, the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California and the Coachella Valley Water District.


The transfer is part of an agreement to force California to reduce its supply of water from the Colorado River over the next 15 years.

"We hear the comments that the county, not the Board of Supervisors, but Imperial County and the IID don't see eye-to-eye; the two don't seem to have their act together," county Supervisor Hank Kuiper, chairman of the board, said.

The lack of communication came to a head this week when the IID opposed and the county supported state Senate Bill 482. Both agencies wanted to add language to SB 482, authored by Sen. Sheila Kuehl, D-Los Angeles.

The bill proposes to protect the Salton Sea and redefine sections of the state Fish and Game Code, giving more protection to endangered species and species that are candidates for the endangered species list.

The county supports the bill if wording is changed so the county can participate on fallowing issues related to water conservation, said county Intergovernmental Relations Director Bob Ham.

"We went up to Sacramento with a very similar position as the IID … somehow it got back to the IID board that we opposed them," Ham said.

Kuiper said the county is concerned about the water transfer because it will affect the people who live in the Imperial Valley socially and economically.

IID Director Bruce Kuhn said both agencies hope the appearance of the split will not be used against them.

The two agencies realize they need faster and better communication. They spent Thursday working out details on how to make that happen.

Specialized county and IID employees, such as Ham and the IID's Brad Luckey, who both work on legislative issues, will start to work one-on-one, Kuhn said.

Kuiper offered to travel with IID directors when they attend meetings or hearings on the water transfer.

Kuiper and Planning Director Jurg Heuberger were still scheduled to attend the IID's special meeting today as the IID board considers certifying the water transfer environmental report and study.

The supervisors sent a letter to the IID Board of Directors earlier this week listing their concerns with the water transfer's draft environmental impact documents.

Kuhn said the county's concerns do not represent a lack of support for the IID.

"There is no such thing as a perfect document. We are trailblazing a water transfer, the magnitude of which has never taken place before, so there are going to be concerns. It's impossible to write a perfect document and please everyone," Kuhn said.

>> Staff Writer Laura Mitchell can be reached at 337-3452 or

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