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Archive for the ‘Imperial Irrigation District’ Category

Possible water for SoCal from Mexico?

Posted by George J Janczyn on August 3, 2010

Since San Diego has an agreement with the Imperial Irrigation District for some of its water, I always read stories about IID when I find them even if they might not appear that interesting on the surface. So I was skimming an article in last week’s Imperial Valley Press innocuously titled IID to unveil new logo, review new administration building proposal when I came to a paragraph that said:

“The IID board will also hear about a proposal to allow Southern California water agencies to fund quake repairs on Baja California’s water infrastructure in exchange for a portion of Mexico’s Colorado River water allotment.”

The Baja Earthquake could mean water for Southern California water agencies? I knew there was a possible deal with Westlands that could help replenish the giant but half-empty Diamond Valley Lake reservoir and my first thought was that a deal with Mexico could top it off.

Trying to learn more, my emails to the reporter and to IID went unanswered, but I received a response from Halla Razak, the Colorado River Program Director at San Diego County Water Authority. She confirmed that there have been talks about extensive earthquake damage to canals and water facilities in northern Baja and possible mitigation assistance. When I pressed her about which water agency proposed this idea and who is coordinating discussions, she replied that the whole idea is “very preliminary, discussed during informal conversations.”

I did find something related in this Executive Director’s Report to the Colorado River Board of California although it only mentions temporary storage, not a water transfer:

“As reported at the April Board meeting, with the large magnitude earthquake that occurred in the Mexicali Valley in early April, water deliveries from a large number of the canals in the Mexicali Valley have been disrupted. To assist Mexico in coping with this situation, the United States has suggested that, in the interest of international comity and as a one-time program, Mexico would be allowed to store up to 200,000 acre-feet of water in the reservoir system in the United States this year and then be allowed to request the delivery of the stored water during calendar year 2011. This would mean that in 2011 Mexico could request a deliveryof up to 1.7 maf. Mexico has considered this offer made by the United States and is proposing that this offer by the United States be incorporated into a more comprehensive deal that includes the concepts that are currently being discussed by the two countries to pursue Bi-National projects that could benefit both countries. Thus, Mexico has proposed that within the next 90 days that agreement be reached on a proposal for International Cooperative Measures in the Colorado River Basin and that this agreement be documented in a new minute to the 1944 Mexican Water Treaty, Minute 318.”

Further digging led to a little more. From Metropolitan Water District’s Colorado River Program Manager, I received this reply:

“Mexico and the United States are negotiating an agreement that would provide Mexico with additional tools to better manage its water supply. Included in the discussions are a proposal for Mexico to store water in Lake Mead, for the United States and Mexico to jointly develop water conservation programs in Mexico, and for Mexico to temporarily provide water to the United States in exchange for receiving funding for earthquake repair. [emphasis mine] The proposal is still being developed; at this time no formal agreement has been reached. If the United States and Mexico reach agreement, then agencies such as Metropolitan could begin discussions with Mexico about how to move forward on specific aspects of it. It is hoped that an agreement could be reached by the end of 2010.”

As for the damage to water infrastructure caused by the quake, the Baja California Earthquake Clearinghouse website has detailed illustrated reports. The summary below is from a newsletter of the Earthquake Engineering Research Institute:

Damage to agriculture in the Mexicali Valley as a result of liquefaction is considerable. An estimated 300 km of canals are damaged, and most of this year’s crops are expected to be lost because of an inability to water them. Flooding of agricultural land with water from sand boils and other sources has resulted in standing water, which kills plants. Fields are no longer level, and will require earthwork and leveling before gravity-controlled irrigation can resume. 300,000 families are thought to be largely out of business because of the earthquake.

[Added] See also this July EERI comprehensive report surveying the quake damage.

If something does emerge from the preliminary talks it will no doubt require high-level involvement because of the international treaty with Mexico and the complex laws governing Colorado River water, but if MWD is right about an agreement by the end of the year, Mexico could soon get some needed assistance and Southern California might be able to supplement a large reservoir or two. Win/win.

______________________________

Aug 4 update: I received this followup note from Bill Hasencamp from the MWD General Manager’s Office:

The International Boundary and Water Commission oversees the 1944 Treaty with Mexico regarding water deliveries between the 2 countries. Since the Original Treaty, more than 200 Minutes have been added to either amend or clarify the Treaty. For the current effort, the IBWC is leading negotiations between the 2 countries to draft a minute that will handle the provisions of any water and currency exchange between the two countries. The Bureau of Reclamation is coordinating the Colorado River Basin States’ input to the negotiations, as we would be the ones providing any money for water. It’s the ultimate responsibility of the IBWC, however, to complete negotiations, which is hoped to finish in the next few months, so that Mexico can start receiving U.S. money to fund infrastructure repair.

There is a meeting in Las Vegas this Friday between the 2 countries to further the discussions.

[Aug 11: The Las Vegas Review-Journal reports on the upcoming meeting]

[Dec 20: Salazar, Elvira announce water agreement to support response to Mexicali valley earthquake]

 

Posted in Imperial Irrigation District, Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, Water | Tagged: , , , , | 7 Comments »

How to poison relations between Imperial Valley and San Diego

Posted by George J Janczyn on February 14, 2010

While the decision to invalidate the Quantification Settlement Agreement (QSA) simmers, an editorial in the Imperial Valley Press Online serves as a good reminder that even in San Diego (!) there are those who view California water resources selfishly and cynically (the QSA contains an agreement for water transfers from Imperial Valley to San Diego). The editorial observes:

…the North County Times in San Diego County recently wrote an editorial that was stunning in its lack of understanding of the dangers of a dried-up Salton Sea and its lack of interest in any region — or its people — other than its own. Of the judge’s ruling and a possible appeal, the paper said:

“Since we believe a higher and better use is to move the water conservation in the Valley (the essence of the deal) to the thirsty parts of San Diego County, we hope the appeal succeeds, the judge is overturned and the Salton Sea is ultimately left to dry up.”

I think San Diegans should be more appreciative that the people of Imperial Valley have made sacrifices to send much-needed water our way. At best, the North County Times editorial was thoughtless. If our attitude is ‘let them breathe dust’ they might as well have the stance ‘let them drink seawater!’ (the Poseidon plant notwithstanding).

Click here to read the entire opinion from Imperial Valley Press

Click here to read the offending North County Times opinion. To their credit, they printed a rebuttal to their editorial.

Feb 15: Interesting timing–the KPBS “These Days” program will discuss the QSA today, apparently from the same angle that I used here. They wrote “Not only has the story been under-reported … but calls to let the Salton Sea dry up are really provoking anger. An audio recording of the broadcast will be posted on their website.

Mar 17: S.D. is not against I.V. / editorial by Tom Wornham, Chairman, San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce Secretary, Board of Directors, San Diego County Water Authority, published in the Imperial Valley Press.

Posted in Environment, Imperial Irrigation District, Land use, Politics, Quantification Settlement Agreement (QSA), Salton Sea, Water | Tagged: | Leave a Comment »

Update on lawsuits that threaten San Diego’s water transfers from Imperial

Posted by George J Janczyn on January 28, 2010

The Imperial Valley Press is reporting new action on the federal lawsuit filed Oct. 8, 2009 over the Quantification Settlement Agreement that authorizes water transfers from Imperial to San Diego. This is separate from the California Superior Court lawsuit that has been generating all of the recent news headlines.

To assist in tracking this and other issues, I’ve added a new page to collect posts about the two continuing legal actions, including new developments. The new page appears above on the menu bar as “Ongoing topics.”

 

Posted in Environment, Imperial Irrigation District, Land use, Politics, Quantification Settlement Agreement (QSA), Salton Sea, San Diego County Water Authority (SDCWA), Water | Tagged: | Leave a Comment »

San Diego’s supplemental water: still too premature to push the panic button?

Posted by George J Janczyn on January 14, 2010

Well, the judge today issued a final statement of decision voiding the agreement providing for San Diego to receive water from Imperial Valley. Here’s the special Superior Court website that has the text of the final decision and provides case information on the individual actions that made up the coordinated proceeding, tentative ruling information, minutes from court proceedings, court orders, and a current Master Service list.

Also, here’s Chance of Rain’s take on the decision. Keep your eye on Aquafornia which is sure to provide comprehensive coverage on this issue in the aftermath of the decision.

My earlier posts on the issue are here:

[Added Jan 15: A good topical overview of the story from NewsFeed Researcher (hat tip to Aquafornia)]

Posted in Environment, Imperial Irrigation District, Land use, Politics, Quantification Settlement Agreement (QSA), Salton Sea, Water | Tagged: , | Leave a Comment »

Update on the ruling affecting water transfers from Imperial to San Diego

Posted by George J Janczyn on December 14, 2009

[This is an update, correction, and later update (!) to my earlier post “Legal challenge threatens water transfer between Imperial and San Diego.” Here’s the link for the Superior Court’s tentative ruling.]

From my reading, the ruling appears to not invalidate the QSA legislation itself, it invalidates the subsequent contracts for water transfers that depend on the QSA, especially Contract J (the Environmental Cost Sharing, Funding, and Habitat Conservation Development Agreement (“ECSA”)) because it would impose upon the state an unconditional and unlimited obligation to pay environmental mitigation expenses without requiring legislative approval, which would be contrary to the state constitution. Although this is a temporary ruling subject to an additional hearing for comments scheduled for Thursday Dec 17, my sense is that it will be made permanent, and if that happens it would seem any further water transfers will be in real jeopardy of being stopped unless/until the contract deficiencies can be corrected.

**Additional late update:

Statements from SDCWA indicate that the judge only ruled on a narrow legal issue in one of the 13 agreements that were up for validation and it is unlikely water will stop flowing if this ruling becomes permanent. However, the ruling clearly states that the other agreements are totally interdependent and thus also invalid. Quote:

“With the QSA JPA being the principal mitigation funding mechanism for the QSA and with IID expressly stating that the other contractual QSA commitments would not have been made but for the commitments of the State in the QSA JPA, the Court finds the remaining 11 contracts to be interdependent with the QSA JPA to the point of requiring that all 11 remaining contracts must also be invalidated. The Court’s finding here is consistent with IID’s pleading in the Second Amended Validation Complaint, paragraph 23, that all of the contracts in question are “interrelated and interdependent”. [emphasis mine]

[Dec 24: Imperial Irrigation District votes to appeal the ruling]

[Dec 29: IID director rescinds vote; board to revote on appeal question in January]

2010

[Jan 5: Imperial Irrigation District seeks Quantification Settlement Agreement resolution]

Posted in Environment, Imperial Irrigation District, Land use, Politics, Quantification Settlement Agreement (QSA), Salton Sea, Water | Tagged: , | Leave a Comment »

Legal challenge threatens water transfer between Imperial and San Diego

Posted by George J Janczyn on December 11, 2009

An important supplemental source of water for San Diego appears to be one step closer to being cut off. A Superior Court judge has issued a tentative ruling that the Quantification Settlement Agreement (QSA) that opened the door to water transfers from the Imperial Irrigation District to San Diego is invalid. [please see my Dec 14 update]

There is also a federal lawsuit regarding the transfer, although no decisions have yet been made in that case (see my November 11 report for background information on the lawsuits and QSA ).

According to a report by the Silicon Valley Mercury News, Dennis Cushman, a manager with the San Diego County Water Authority, said “The water is flowing and will continue to flow indefinitely until the legal issues are sorted out,” he said. “There’s no panic button to press right now.”

The judge will hear arguments next Thursday before deciding whether to make the tentative ruling permanent. If he decides to do so, will that be the panic button?

Posted in Environment, Imperial Irrigation District, Land use, Politics, Quantification Settlement Agreement (QSA), Salton Sea, Water | Tagged: , | Leave a Comment »

Water transfer from Imperial to San Diego faces new legal challenges

Posted by George J Janczyn on November 10, 2009

LowerOtay1small

Lower Otay reservoir and dam

A Superior Court lawsuit filed yesterday (Monday) in Sacramento adds to the pressure from a legal challenge filed last month in federal court over the San Diego/Imperial water transfer agreement, which already has been controversial and subject to previous lawsuits.

In 2003, the San Diego County Water Authority (CWA) signed a water transfer agreement with the Imperial Irrigation District (IID) in order to bolster supplies in the face of increasing demand and disappearing surplus Colorado River water it had relied on. According to SDCWA’s Fact Sheet the transfer started in 2003 at 10,000 acre-feet of water and was intended to eventually move up to 200,000 acre-feet (AF) of water per year to San Diego County, plus another 77,700 AF per year drawn from conserved water that would result from the lining of the All-American and Coachella canals which were losing water to seepage.

The federal lawsuit filed Oct. 9 by the Imperial County Air Pollution Control District and the county of Imperial seeks to stop water transfers until guarantees to meet air quality laws, among other demands, are satisfied. The second lawsuit filed yesterday challenges the water agencies’ legal authority to enter into the deal and also concerns environmental issues. The Metropolitan Water District (MWD) and Coachella Valley Water Department (CVWD) were also parties to the transfer agreement and would be affected by these lawsuits.

SaltonSea10Small

Salton Sea

The environmental concerns relate to reduced agricultural runoff into the Salton Sea which results in a lower water level exposing polluted shoreline soil that dries out and scatters as dust in the wind, harming air quality in the valley. Salton Sea water quality, effect on wildlife, and other environmental concerns are also at issue.

I don’t know how the lawsuits might address opposition from farmers and other residents who fear the effects less water would have on their economic well-being and quality-of-life.

Filing the lawsuit at the federal level adds the involvement of the U.S. Department of the Interior and Bureau of Reclamation as well.

One thing seems sure: with our increasing demand on limited water resources, transfers between agricultural and urban agencies are increasingly attractive, especially when some 80% of California’s water is used by agriculture, and much of that is invested in high water use crops like alfalfa, rice, and cotton–not necessarily the best economic use for the water–and Colorado River surplus water that we previously had temporary access to is no longer surplus. Indeed, another transfer for San Diego is underway: CWA is aquiring 20,000 AF from Placer County near Sacramento under an existing one-year agreement. Perhaps such transfers will give us needed time to exercise more restraint in urban expansion and population growth without having to resort to more drastic rationing measures. I hope so.

[Two links added Nov 12]

Former IID director, Imperial County supervisor clash over QSA suit
http://www.ivpressonline.com/articles/2009/11/12/local_news/news04.txt

A Reader Writes: Wrong lawsuit, wrong valley
http://www.ivpressonline.com/articles/2009/11/12/our_opinion/ed01_11-12-09.txt

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Additional information sources:

Mydesert.com announcement of lawsuit
http://www.mydesert.com/article/20091109/NEWS0701/911090308/1006/news01

Colorado River Water Transfer Agreement
http://www.sdcwa.org/manage/pdf/WaterTransfer.pdf

CWA documentation on the QSA (aka Colorado River Quantification Settlement Agreement)
http://www.sdcwa.org/manage/mwd-QSA.phtml

IID documentation on the QSA
http://www.iid.com/Water/QSAWaterTransfer

CVWD documentation on the QSA
http://www.cvwd.org/search.php?cx=002342321204791076250%3Al4cbqu3ehrk&cof=FORID%3A11&q=qsa&x=0&y=0#1155

Why the county is in court / Antonio Rossman, reader viewpoint, in IVPressOnline
http://www.ivpressonline.com/articles/2009/11/07/our_opinion/ed01_11-07-09.txt

Imperial County, Air Pollution Control District’s federal lawsuit challenges Imperial Irrigation District water transfer / David Steffen in IVPressOnline
http://www.ivpressonline.com/articles/2009/10/17/local_news/news03.txt

More lawsuits, more money / Opinion, IVPressOnline
http://www.ivpressonline.com/articles/2009/10/20/our_opinion/ed02-10-20-09.txt

Bruvold: the professor’s off a bit / VoiceOfSanDiego
http://www.voiceofsandiego.org/articles/2009/10/27/cafesandiego/593bruvoldii102609.txt

UC 2003 report on controversy surrounding the agreement
http://igs.berkeley.edu/library/htImperialWaterTransfer2003.html

Salton Sea Ecosystem Restoration Program Environmental Impact Report
http://www.saltonsea.water.ca.gov/PEIR/

Salton Sea Coalition report
http://saltonseacoalition.org/pages/thesaltonsea.cgi

California Resources Agency report on Salton Sea ecosystem restoration
http://www.saltonsea.water.ca.gov/docs/AQFact.pdf

Posted in Environment, Imperial Irrigation District, Land use, Politics, Quantification Settlement Agreement (QSA), Salton Sea, Water | Tagged: , | Leave a Comment »