IID GM responds to protest letters of water agencies

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Kevin Kelley

EL CENTRO – At the regular meeting of the Imperial Irrigation District on September 17, General Manager Kevin Kelley responded to protest letters of two water agencies.

“I want to encapsulate for the board and public IID’s response to the protest letters received from the Southern Nevada Water Authority (SNWA) and Metropolitan Water District (MWD) to what should have been a fairly innocuous environmental document filed b the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in support of its Sonny Bono National Wildlife Refuge at the Salton Sea,” said Kelley.

“In their letters, what both water agencies object to is the modest amount of water IID provides to this federal project. SNWA, for its part, serves notice that the use of this water to sustain species and habitat may be inconsistent with the law of the river; MWD warns that IID’s water right is strictly limited to potable and agricultural use.

Then, for good measure, it reasserts its claim to inflows from the New and Alamo Rivers.

IID, of course, rejects both positions, not only as a matter of law but as sound public policy.

What both of these letters have in common is the misguided notion that the Salton Sea is a problem to be circumvented rather than solved. They advance the perspective that water used to maintain even a semblance of environmental stasis at the sea, much less restore it, is irresponsible and wasteful, that such water could necessarily be put to a far better use somewhere else, presumably in Las Vegas or Los Angeles. In sum, they view this troubled body of water through the narrow lens of their own economic interests and not the environmental prism that envelopes it.

That SNWA and MWD should act in what they believe to be their own interests is not surprising, but is shortsighted. And it will not stand.

In the next several days, the IID Board of Directors and the Imperial County board of Supervisors will be presented with a memorandum of understanding that deals squarely with the disposition of the Salton Sea and its inextricable linkage to the long-term viability of the Quantification Settlement Agreement (QSA). The path forward, as we see it, is in the joint pursuit of renewable energy development at the sea as a platform, and funding mechanism, for its restoration. By restoration, I am referring to an achievable plan that results in a smaller but sustainable Salton Sea. That is what IID was promised in the QSA and it is what the District and the County are insisting on through the Salton Sea Restoration and Renewable Energy initiative.

It is in all our interests, including SNWA’s and MWD’s, which this initiative succeeds. Because the sustainability of the Salton Sea will determine, in large part, the survivability of the QSA, and with it California’s 4.4 Plan. It is clear, 10 years into the implementation of the nation’s largest agricultural-to-urban water transfer, that one cannot exist without the other.

And the clock is ticking.”