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Our Opinion: The Sins of The Past

The Imperial Valley Press
July 06, 2001

The sins of the past are coming back to haunt the Imperial Irrigation District board.

In 1998 the IID board majority, for reasons known only to individual members, rushed into signing an agreement with the San Diego County Water Authority to send 200,000 acre-feet of Imperial County water each year to San Diego. Details such as doing environmental impact reports and other seemingly requisite studies were pushed to the background in the interest of haste.

Essentially, what the signing meant is instead of first finding out how such an agreement would affect the environment, then considering an agreement with actual evidence in hand, the IID board signed up the Imperial Valley for a massive water transfer, then started looking at the environmental and other ramifications. That is a mode of operation often referred to in rougher circles „bass ackwards.‰

One of the rushed details included in the agreement was that IID could pull out of the pact if environmental costs from the transfer, most of which are connected to the transfers effects on the Salton Sea, were expected to exceed $15 million. If that seems a fairly random number, it probably was. The fact that the federal legislation would allocate $60 million for Salton Sea environmental issues connected to the transfer shows just how random, and low, that $15 million figure likely was. (The IID board, by the way, is backing the legislation for the $60 million.)

More and more it appears that the water transfer with SDCWA will either devastate the Salton Sea, devastate the Imperial Valley or devastate both. The pressures and potential profits to some from the transfer combined with new laws regarding silt runoff could make farming a thing of the past in the Valley. And if farming goes, so will our Valley.

The IID board recently sent a letter to the SDCWA warning it that the environmental costs for the transfer likely would exceed $15 million. Environmental studies on the impact of the transfer are not finished, but all indications, including the federal Salton Sea legislation, are that it will be well over $15 million.

IID President Andy Horne said IID in the letter was not informing San Diego that it was backing out of the transfer, and SDCWA officials did not seem overly concerned about the correspondence. What IID is saying it is not willing to pay beyond the $15 million for the environmental measures, that another agency will have to carry that cost, and that is something the folks in San Diego will have to start mulling seriously soon.

We have said from the start that we were not comfortable with this water transfer and we were particularly uncomfortable with some of our IID directors being in such a rush to push it through.

Now, several years down the road, it appears we are trapped by a monster that will eat us any way we run.

For that we need to thank our IID board majority, circa mid- to late 1990s.