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Our Opinion: Let IID lead on water issues

June 30, 2002

If you want to say there was no clash between the Imperial Irrigation District Board of Directors and the county Board of Supervisors over pending legislation that would reportedly force the Imperial Valley to fallow to generate water for transfer and the Salton Sea, OK.

Call the disagreement whatever you want.

County officials say they only want a seat at the table when and if fallowing is forced upon the community because fallowing would have deleterious effects on more than just the IID and farmers.

We think the county could get a seat at any local table by merely asking. The notion, however, that such a seat is more important than showing solidarity with the IID to adamantly oppose fallowing is wrong. Is it possible that what the county seeks is control over the revenues expected from the transfer? In 20 years that $50 million yearly is going to look awfully enticing.


Others in the community also seek control, or at least a seat, at any table with that much money. There are also those who want to know where the line forms to collect their checks just for living here.

Unfortunately, there are expenditures that will need to come first, such as reimbursing the farming community for the cost of efforts to move the water transfer forward. Then there are the costs associated with fallowing such as how to obtain the land to be fallowed, how to compensate farmers for their participation and their loss of income from crops that are not grown, the loss of power produced from less flows in the All-American Canal and more.

Those costs also include losses to agricultural related businesses and job losses.

County officials also disagree that the pending legislation forces the IID to fallow. IID officials believe it does. Whom should the community believe? It doesn't matter. We think any legislation that even discusses fallowing should be opposed on principle and we think there needs to be a united front locally to oppose it.

On Friday the public was informed that under a fallowing program the community can expect to lose 1,400 jobs and a reduction in business output of $97.5 million. Under a conservation program we're told there would be a net increase of 410 jobs and an increase in business output of $55 million. In reality, if 1,400 jobs are not lost, and 410 jobs are added, the true benefit is 1,810 jobs.

Is there any doubt what our elected leaders should strive for?

On a separate note, the disagreement between the IID and the Board of Supervisors gives outsiders ammunition against the Valley by playing one side against the other. It places the county in the same camp with the San Diego County Water Authority, the Coachella Valley Water District and the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, all of which claim to be our partners in the water transfer, and all of which formally supported the fallowing legislation.

The Board of Supervisors should realize that the whole Valley gets to vote for each director while only one fifth of the Valley votes for each supervisor. We think with such a setup that the IID board knows best what it should do in regards to water.

That is not to minimize the importance of the county in land-use related issues, but we think a united front against fallowing is more important.

Fallowing goes straight to the heart of this Valley's way of life and the result is ugly.

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