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A Reader Writes by Eric M. Reyes: Press trying to have it both ways?

April 11, 2005

You can't have it both ways. Recently the Press ran an editorial trumpeting the new era of regional economic development with the opening of the new mall that does not solve our chronic employment problems but does signal, according to the editorial writer, an economic milestone and a sign of continued growth.

This growth is not being fueled by the traditional cornerstone of economic action in the Imperial Valley, agriculture, which verifies the diversification of an economy too long dependent on the ups and downs of this industry.

Agriculture is still a vital and vibrant component of the Valley's economy, but the region is better for not being dependent on it as the sole source of opportunity for economic growth.

You can't have it both ways. The Press and the water transfer pessimists know of this economic upturn that shows no signs of slowing down anytime soon. They hail its economic and (hopefully) social significance, yet still claim that the Imperial Irrigation District's water transfer with the San Diego County Water Authority signals the end of the Imperial Valley, with disastrous economic and social consequences to come.

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Yes, there will be negatively impacted segments of our economy (mainly farm-related), and we should work on lessening that impact. But the whole Imperial Valley economy isn't going to come crashing down as a result of transfer-related impacts.

After all, the transfer is bringing in over $1 billion in revenue (this is a fact available for anyone to see, analyze and look to profit from) to our public agency, IID, during the life of the deal.

You can't have it both ways. In my lifetime and family's experience here in the Imperial Valley (since 1915), agriculture has weathered a continuous barrage of assaults on its stability, viability and economic significance. The water transfer is another such challenge.

In previous generations this transfer would have been disastrous because of the lack of opportunities for the workforce here. Times have changed for the better in terms of employment opportunities, even if we still need to improve and offer better-paying jobs (part of the process) to our workforce.

Unionization would be my own preference but that's another debate. The Imperial Valley and its agriculture will weather the transfer-related impacts, just as it has weathered global competition, disease, whitefly, market supply fluctuations, the United Farm Workers, voluntary fallowing, drought and the narrow-minded views of the world.

You can't have it both ways. The non-agricultural industry, water transfer pessimists of the Imperial Valley are lamenting the impact the transfer will have, noting how the farm community (yes, this includes farm workers) is being directly impacted.

They do this when it is convenient to use the information to their advantage, wanting to fuel more economic development with funds from the water transfer revenues, and away from agriculture and those directly impacted.

I have to ask, as we reach an important benchmark of the transfer implementation, do you care for those you use for your political purposes? Can we include a combination of investment and mitigation? Is compensation part of the mitigation mix? These are important questions someone has to answer and soon.

You can't have it both ways. For the many people involved in the ongoing mitigation efforts, the funds established to offset the impacts of the water transfer would either help fuel the continued economic upturn or they will not. These funds will further diversify the Imperial Valley economy, which is a positive, or they won't be adequate to meet the need, which is a negative.

The truth is probably somewhere in between, which is usually the case if we search for the whole truth. The only truth I know is that this newspaper can't have it both ways.

>> ERIC M. REYES is an Imperial resident who teaches social studies at Calexico High School..

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