Judges Reprimands Imperial County Officials in Salton Sea Case


salton sea walk

SACRAMENTO — The decade plus Imperial County lawsuit, along with the local air quality control board, against the Imperial Irrigation District’s in regard to the Quantitative Settlement Agreement (QSA), brought stern words from the judges of the California 3rd District Court of Appeal. The County appeared before the court to dismiss their appeals, after coming to a settlement with the IID.


After 12 years of expensive and fruitless lawsuits, the people-versus-the-people, in the county vs. publicly held utility lawsuits, the court stated, “It is likely that untold millions of dollars have been poured into litigation that has now come to naught.”


At issue is the Salton Sea, the largest body of water in California, and the sickest. The shrinking, shallow, inland sea faces almost certain environmental hazards unless IID and the Imperial County governmental agencies figure out what to do about a dwindling supply of fresh water due to fallowing and selling water to thirsty coastal cities.


And 12 years of fruitless lawsuits over the QSA haven’t helped, says the appellate court. Imperial County and the local air pollution control district are dismissing their appeals, agreeing to the terms of a settlement reached with one of their now former opponents — the Imperial Irrigation District.


“Although we commend the Imperial County agencies for finally settling this matter, we cannot help but lament the lateness of the hour in which they chose to do so,” says the appellate court. “In the decade and more that has passed since the Quantification Settlement Agreement was finalized in 2003, it is likely that untold millions of dollars have been poured into litigation that has now come to naught. In addition to this drain on the public till of the various public agency parties to the litigation, state and federal courts have expended countless hours adjudicating these matters — hours that could have been devoted to the expeditious resolution of other cases.”


Yet, the settlement agreement was a landmark and a harbinger of more cooperation between the two big agencies of the Valley. As both boards worked out a settlement after an election ushered in new IID directors, all minds and energies have transferred from bickering to putting the state on notice that without the promised financial help in mitigating the substantial loss of fresh water flowing into the Salton Sea, the QSA is in danger of collapsing.


A petition sent by the IID to the State and endorsed by the County has set off a series of statewide events that are bringing attention to the dire fortunes of the Sea and the surrounding communities. Momentum appears to be building for the State to expend money other than for more research and study plans, but for plans of action and results.