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Two scenarios, water conservation methods included

June 30, 2002|By RUDY YNIGUEZ

Staff Writer

What does the Imperial Irrigation District/San Diego County Water Authority water transfer agreement include?

Two scenarios:

· transfer 130,000 acre-feet yearly to the San Diego County Water Authority.

· transfer up to 200,000 acre-feet yearly to San Diego, and up to 100,000 acre-feet yearly to the Coachella Valley Water District and/or the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California through implementation of the agricultural quantification settlement agreement.

Water conservation methods:

· on-farm irrigation system improvements.

· water delivery system improvements.

· fallowing.

· a mixture of the above methods.

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Salton Sea mitigation through two proposed habitat conservation plans:

· HCP No. 1 includes 5,000 acres of fish ponds and fish hatchery. This proposal has reportedly been rejected by the state Department of Fish & Game and the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service.

· HCP No. 2 includes make-up water to the sea to offset reductions in flows to the sea until 2030. It is thought that by 2030 the salinity in the sea would reach 60 parts per thousand, a level at which tilapia cannot reproduce. This proposal is now being called the Salton Sea Habitat Conservation Strategy. The water would be generated through land fallowing.

Transfer project alternatives, from among which the IID Board of Directors will choose:

· the proposed project, that is, transfer 300,000 acre-feet using all conservation measures.

· alternative No. 1, no project, that is, no transfer.

· alternative No. 2, a transfer of no more than 130,000 acre-feet, using on-farm conservation only. The QSA would not be completed or implemented. Environmental effects on the Salton Sea would be mitigated through fallowing. The definition of fallowing is "the nonuse of farmland for crop production in order to conserve irrigation water, on a short-term or long-term basis." This alternative includes sending water to the sea for mitigation of water lost from the transfer.

· alternative No. 3, a transfer of up to 230,000 acre-feet. Of that, 130,000 would go to San Diego. The other 100,000 would go to Coachella and/or MWD. Under this scenario, the water would be saved on-farm, through system savings or fallowing. Effects to the Salton Sea would be mitigated through fallowing.

· alternative No. 4, a transfer of up to 300,000 acre-feet using fallowing only.

To use fallowing as a conservation method, the IID/San Diego agreement must be changed, as fallowing is prohibited.

It is unknown when the IID board will decide whether to move forward with the transfer project or one of the alternatives.

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