BRAWLEY â€“ The Coalition of Labor, Agriculture, and Business held a State of County/District breakfast Friday, March 21, at the Stockmanâ€™s Club of Imperial Valley.
Imperial County Board of Supervisor, District 1, John Renison and Imperial Irrigation District, Division 3, President James Hanks were the featured speakers.
Hanks was optimistic about the current makeup of the IID Board and the recently reorganized management and staff.
â€œWe are correcting problems in the District one by one,â€ said Hanks. â€œWe are saving the ratepayers and the District money, while we protect our Balancing Authority and water rights. We still have a lot of work to do, but we are moving in a positive direction.â€
When asked what the biggest concern he had for the Valley in 2014 is, Hanks said, â€œOn the energy side, it is meeting all of the regulatory compliance. I believe we are being squeezed to try to force us into IOUâ€™s. Itâ€™s not so much that theyâ€™re interested from a profit driven aspect. When you look at our rates, which are the lowest in the state, and you look at their rates, itâ€™s hard for them to justify their rates to their ratepayers when they see our rates. On the water side, the position of the Board should be to stay with our statutory water rights that have been upheld by the Supreme Court and hold to it. They want to look at restrictive measures to justify everybodyâ€™s problems. When they talk about cooperation and collaboration, those are code words for giving up something. Theyâ€™re coming after you to take what you have. We all know that water is our lifeblood.â€
Hanks responded to the threat of the state or the Feds coming in and taking our Balancing Authority or our water rights.
â€œThe only way they could take our Balancing Authority would be if failed to meet our commitment as a Balancing Authority or regulatory issues,â€ said Hanks. â€œOn our water rights, I believe the only way they could get them is if we wink, blink, or forebear our adjudicated rights to our water. When they may accuse me of sometimes being uncooperative when it comes to our Balancing Authority or our water rights, Iâ€™m probably not being cooperative. I donâ€™t intend to be.â€
Renison gave an update on the work the County has done over the last year.
Road improvements, Calexico Port of Entry improvements, solar projects, new geothermal projects, new wind power projects, algae farms, and a proposed lithium plant were some of the highlights of 2013, with even more in 2014.
â€œJobs, job retention, and new business for the Valley are our top priorities,â€ said Renison. â€œWith the highest employment numbers in the state, we are committed to continuing our quest to invite new business to the Imperial Valley. We are the top location in the country for renewable resources. Energy companies are aware of this and are taking advantage of the resources and we will see more construction in 2014 and beyond.â€
Renison touched on regulation issues.
â€œRegulation issues are not popular to talk about,â€ said Renison, â€œbut they are in place for the safety of the public. They protect our food, water, and other consumer products. They are also critical for workers.â€
These regulations are thought to be part of the reason that National Beef is closing their Brawley beef processing plant.
â€œThe closing of National Beef has brought the whole county together.â€ said Renison. â€œIn 2013 the County and the IID signed a MOU that enables us to work together on the Salton Sea. It is in this spirit that we came together along with the City of Brawley and feedlot owners to come up with an incentive package in an attempt to change their minds about closing the plant. That was unsuccessful, but it showed we can work together. 2014 holds the promise of us all working together for the critical issues that are facing our Valley.â€