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Letter: IID Bill for Water Transfer May Go over $15 Million

By Kelly Grant
Imperial Valley Press, Friday, June 29, 2001

The Imperial Irrigation District has sent a letter to the San Diego County Water Authority indicating environmental costs related to the proposed water transfer may exceed $15 million.

IID Board of Directors President Andy Horne said the decision to send the letter came as the board discussed approving a resolution of support for legislative action that would, among other things, provide $60 million to the Salton Sea to mitigate environmental effects of the water transfer.

"It (the letter) is the result of concern of mounting environmental costs, especially those associated with the Salton Sea," Horne said.

"We don't have anything proving the costs will exceed $15 million," Horne said.

Though Horne said IID has nothing to prove the costs will exceed $15 million, "Anyone involved could see it's going over," Horne said.

Horne pointed out that the legislation IID recently voted to support would give $60 million to the Salton Sea for environmental impact mitigation.

Though the contract between IID and SDCWA indicates IID can back out of the transfer if costs go above the $15 million mark, Horne says the letter isn't an announcement IID is pulling out.

"We're not notifying them we're backing out," Horne said.

Instead, the letter makes clear that if the transfer is to go through, some agency other than IID will have to pay the environmental costs beyond the $15 million IID is committed to paying.

"That's all we're prepared to pay," Horne said.

The quantification settlement agreement states other agencies such as the Coachella Valley Water District, Metropolitan Water District or the state or federal governments could backfill the environmental costs of IID's transfer to San Diego, Horne said.

The quantification settlement creates peace between IID, MWD and CVWD. It also establishes that IID will annually transfer 200,000 acre-feet of water to the San Diego County Water Authority.

Horne said IID sent copies of the letter to the other agencies to advise them of the situation.

At this point, Horne explained, the transfer is in limbo as no final environmental report has been released and no set amount of money for environmental impact mitigation has been determined.

The letter is a way of "lighting the fuse because now there are some things they must do to preserve the deal," Horne said.

"If no one assumes the cost, the deal blows up," Horne said.

"I'd assume this would be a motivating factor to get the other parties moving," Horne added.

The transfer's environmental impacts have long been a stumbling block in getting the transfer off the ground. Though in the planning stages for years, the transfer has been delayed by numerous environmental studies.

IID officials have said that if the transfer doesn't go through, they fear the state or federal governments could step in and demand water from IID for coastal cities.

Staff Writer Kelly Grant can be reached at 337-3441.