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Archive for the ‘Politics’ Category

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 recycled water project gets a boost from the city council

Posted by George J Janczyn on January 27, 2010

Last December in my post “Water reuse is imperative for a sustainable San Diego” I mentioned that the water department would soon be submitting a contract proposal for the Potable Reuse Demonstration Project. The wheels on this project certainly turn slowly!

At their October 29, 2007 meeting, the City Council voted to proceed with the Demonstration Project. On May 2009, the Public Utilities Department issued a Request for Proposals for Project Management and Public Outreach.

Yesterday (Jan. 26), the proposal went to the San Diego City Council which approved “an Agreement between the City of San Diego and RMC Water and Environment, to perform the Project Management and Public Outreach for the Demonstration Project, in an amount not to exceed $3,281,353” ($1,499,611 of that amount will be for the public outreach and education program).

City Council Docket (item #334)
Council meeting video (relevant portion starts at 03:10:30)

This important item passed with a 5-3 vote, with Young, Frye, Hueso, Emerald & Gloria voting in favor. Lightner, DeMaio, and Faulconer against (the video shows the electronic vote tally at 6-2, but it turned out that Frye “playfully” pressed DeMaio’s button ‘yes’ before he could send his ‘no’ vote).

It’s true that’s a good chunk of money from the city’s tight budget, but this is a vital step towards reducing San Diego’s dependence on imported water and it should have been unanimously approved. The mayor’s continued opposition to the water reuse project is also troubling. Despite this project having been approved long ago, the Mayor along with DeMaio and Lightner seem determined to keep it from proceeding!

Mike Lee from the Union-Tribune further highlights the action in this report.

Posted in Environment, Politics, Purified recycled water, Water, Water reuse--San Diego | Tagged: , | 1 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 »

Don’t worry, be happy, our water’s safe

Posted by George J Janczyn on December 17, 2009

“It’s way too premature to push the panic button.”

Sort of like “very unique.” That’s what Dennis Cushman, assistant general manager of the San Diego County Water Authority is quoted saying in today’s Union-Tribune front-page story about the Superior Court lawsuit challenging the Quantification Settlement Agreement-based contract for transferring water from Imperial Valley to San Diego.

This is the 4th or 5th time I’ve heard or read of a water official or politician revoking the panic button in the last week or so.

No matter how the lawsuit gets decided, it’s a side-issue. The bigger issue is San Diego’s excessive reliance on imported water. Instead of inducing complacency about our water supply by repeating a politically expedient dismissal of this threatening case and making San Diegans more at ease about our water supply, our local water leaders and lawmakers should use this as an opportunity to vigorously pursue an increase in public understanding of the need to support projects that reduce our dependence on imported water.

The construction of a desalination plant in Carlsbad will certainly contribute new water to the county’s pipelines, although it’s an extremely expensive operation for producing water locally.

Curiously, as an aside, local media and water officials have been silent about the federal lawsuit that also threatens the water transfer.

But one more potentially large new source of potable local water lingers in the background, as I wrote a few days ago in water reuse is imperative for a sustainable San Diego, and it’s less expensive than desalination. Instead of sidetracking public sentiment with cliche “don’t worry” statements, our leaders need to reinforce and hold the long-term view in the public mind. Water reuse is one area that could use more attention.

Posted in Government, Politics, Quantification Settlement Agreement (QSA), 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 »

Water reuse is imperative for a sustainable San Diego

Posted by George J Janczyn on December 14, 2009

July 2009: low water level in Lake Mead near Hoover Dam

Whether you believe global warming contributes to drought or that when the drought is over our problems will go away, the fact is that water scarcity is not a temporary condition in Southern California. For one thing, our access to Colorado River water is decreasing. But California’s take of Colorado River water is not dropping because of drought or politics. Yes, there is growth and development everywhere and western states are taking more water from the Colorado River than ever, but the reason for our reduction is that we have to stop taking more than we are legally entitled to.

For years California withdrew more than its legal allotment of Colorado River water by as much as 800,000 acre feet per year. This was permitted because other states, primarily Arizona and Nevada, were not taking the full amount they are legally entitled to. But as those states increasingly began taking their share, California was forced to begin making adjustments to live within its means and move to comply with its legal allocation of 4.4 million acre feet per year. So, too, San Diego is adjusting to a reduction in water deliveries from the Colorado River that will be permanent, in addition to the latest cutbacks from Northern California. Plus, even when the Colorado River flows at “normal” levels — a rate which is increasingly uncertain — it may not produce enough water to permit everybody to take their full share, especially when you consider that the allotments were based on unrealistically high flow rate projections.

San Diego’s heavy dependence on Colorado River water places it in a very vulnerable position, especially with the prospect of reduced deliveries from northern California. Fortunately, these days a growing number of San Diegans are becoming more aware of our heavy dependence on imported water and the importance of long-term sustainable approaches to meet our demand. My question is: how much will citizens support further recycling to make San Diego more independent in providing for its water requirements?

The San Diego County Water Authority and the San Diego Water Department began working many years ago on ways to reduce our reliance on imported water. They negotiated the purchase of water conserved by Imperial Valley farmers for transfer to San Diego. We’re currently receiving water under the agreement although two new lawsuits challenging the transfer were recently filed [–yes, technically that’s still imported water]. A new desalination plant is in the works in Carlsbad (that’s still being challenged as well). The San Vicente Dam is being raised to increase its capacity. Additional groundwater sources are being studied. Two water reclamation plants were built to treat wastewater for irrigation and industrial use in the northern and southern regions (and the city could probably use a third for the central areas). There is renewed emphasis on water conservation. And now more important than ever, there’s the possibility of highly advanced treatment of wastewater for indirect potable reuse.

North City Water Reclamation Plant

Actually, the San Diego City Council in 1989 passed an ordinance requiring wide use of recycled water. For whatever reasons, recycling then languished for years. Then growing support for recycling led to the construction of the two recycling plants, but an indirect potable water reuse project was vetoed by Mayor Sanders in 2007. Although scientific studies established that water quality from highly advanced treatment not only equals but exceeds the quality of water that is currently distributed for potable purposes, the mayor and other opponents of the plan used the “toilet-to-tap” label and other inflammatory rhetoric to fight the project. Fortunately, clearer minds prevailed and the veto was overridden by the city council (Mike Lee recounts this history at http://legacy.signonsandiego.com/uniontrib/20080308/news_1n8pipes.html).

The Water Purification Demonstration Project is making some progress now. The project aims to demonstrate the feasibility of providing highly advanced treatment and disinfection for 1 million gallons of water per day, bringing it to indirect potable standards and supplementing the city’s water supplies by blending it with water in the San Vicente reservoir.

The San Diego Water Department is planning to give a presentation on this topic at UCSD sometime in January. They also will submit a public outreach and education contract proposal to the city council in early 2010. Keep your eyes open for announcements. [update below]

A moderate amount of recycled water is being used now, but there’s plenty of unused production capacity. Purifying it to indirect potable standards could and should be a significant component of San Diego’s efforts to reduce reliance on imported water. If the IPR study is successful and the technology is approved for production, the process could produce up to 16MGD of potable water. It absolutely makes sense to reuse as much water as possible that otherwise goes wasted into the ocean. When the Water Department’s outreach and education efforts begin rolling out next year, I hope enlightened San Diegans will reject the fearmongering by opponents and throw their support behind this worthwhile project.

UPDATE Jan 27, 2010:The public outreach contract mentioned above was brought to the Jan. 26 San Diego City Council meeting where they approved “an Agreement between the City of San Diego and RMC Water and Environment, to perform the Project Management and Public Outreach for the Demonstration Project, in an amount not to exceed $3,281,353.” (City Council Docket Item #334)

For continuing coverage on indirect potable reuse, please see the Indirect potable reuse page

Click here for background resources

Posted in Colorado River, Environment, Indirect potable reuse, Politics, Purified recycled water, Water, Water reuse--San Diego | 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

—————————————————–
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 »

Getting our values around copyright right

Posted by George J Janczyn on November 5, 2009

I think everyone would benefit from and enjoy watching this presentation that Lawrence Lessig gave this morning at the Educause 2009 conference. He illustrates how the extreme application of copyright to all aspects of our lives corrupts the rule of law in a democratic society, and promotes the Creative Commons approach to a legal infrastructure for avoiding the damage to science, education, and culture inflicted by copyright.

LessigCopyrightTalk

Click the picture above to see the video. Lessig’s talk begins at minute 35 26, just use the time slide control to bypass earlier talks.

Lessig is the Director, Edward J. Safra Foundation Center for Ethics, and Professor of Law at Harvard University

Posted in Internet, Politics, Technology | Tagged: , , | Leave a Comment »

California’s new water legislation passes

Posted by George J Janczyn on November 4, 2009

The California Legislature approved today a package of legislation that aims to make long-term improvements in statewide water management and water supply reliability.

If you’re interested in learning more about it, Aquafornia is the place to go for comprehensive California water news.

For the San Diego angle on the legislation, Rob Davis is on top of things with a good summary posted in the Voice of San Diego.

Other local coverage: the U-T has an AP wire report, KPBS has a short blurb, and the San Diego County Water Authority has a press release.

Posted in Environment, Politics, Water | Tagged: | Leave a Comment »