EL CENTRO — Imperial Irrigation District 2 candidates, Bruce Kuhn, incumbent, and challenger, Dilda McFadden debated over water and energy, Thursday evening at the William Condit Auditorium in El Centro. COLAB of Imperial County, the Imperial County Farm Bureau, Imperial Valley Vegetable Growers Association, and the Brawley, El Centro and Imperial Chambers of Commerce organized the debate. The candidate forums were recorded by KXO Radio and were broadcast on AM1230 and FM107.5 with podcasts available on www.kxoradio.com. George Nava of Brawley moderated.
McFadden opened with a promise to be a full time IID director, attending all meetings in the Valley and in La Quinta. He launched his main theme, repeated throughout the debate, of the utility overcharging the ratepayers $140 million and never returning the money. He spoke about the inefficient manner the IID has distributed fallowing money. McFadden said of the $50 million received, the IID has allocated $40 million to various businesses with a net increase of only 50 jobs.
Kuhn introduced himself saying he has been married to the same woman, has been a business owner in land
leveling for 35 years, with many more years in the same business before owning his own. Kuhn said a previous administration over-collected from the ratepayers, but during his term, the money was returned to the ratepayers in the form of not raising energy costs when a raise was definitely needed. When the overcharged dollar amount had all been accounted for in rate savings, only then did the IID institute a rate hike.
Kuhn mentioned that during his term, the IID and the Imperial County Board of Supervisors began speaking with one voice, with the lawsuit between them finally put to rest. Kuhn said it was the first time in 30 years the two main organizations of the Valley were working jointly with good relations.
McFadden countered saying the IID board only collaborated together because the Governor Brown had put a figurative gun to their heads, forcing them to work together by threatening financial repercussions if they didn’t. Other issues McFadden stressed were getting input from concerned groups in the Valley such as the Farm Bureau, listen to the IID staff, and other organizations. He said he would be independent in making his decisions after listening to each group.
Kuhn refuted the accusation of the State forcing the IID and the County to resolve their differences. Kuhn said he asked IID board president, Matt Dessert, to reach out to the county, which Dessert did with meetings, and within six weeks all issues were resolved between the County and IID. Kuhn also spoke about his 20-year dream, started with the late IID director, Don Cox, of putting pilot seepage recovery well pods next to the All-American Canal.
“The IID put four wells and they hit water at 14′, which I knew they would,” Kuhn said. ” I work out there, I see the water. Two of the wells are working without power, without a pump. We will not have to worry about over runs of our water allotment of the Colorado River. We will not have to worry about ever paying the federal government for water over runs.”
Both candidates stated they were against any further fallowing.
Also on the debate dais was Ryan Kelley, incumbent of the Board of Supervisors, District 4, running unopposed. He issued an opening statement then left the stage to sit with the audience.
Kelley told the room that is was a great privilege to serve the county and he will continue to work to create a better Valley, not only for this generation, but the next as well. He cited some of the accomplishments as a sitting supervisor: the settled water transfer lawsuit with the IID, California budgeting money for the Salton Sea mitigation, and the renewable energy development in the Valley.
Kelley promised to continue facing Valley challenges head-on and to invest in the infrastructure to make the County a good place to live and do business.
The next debate will be April 26, Tuesday, at the IID Condit Auditorium between the Board of Supervisor District 2 candidates from 6 -7:30 p.m.
The IID Division 2 forum will air on AM 1230 on Monday, April 25 , 2016 at 9:00 a.m and on FM 107.5 on Tuesday , April 26 , 2016 at 10:00 a.m.