All-American Canal

 Adam DuBrowa/FEMA

EL CENTRO — After false starts and real stops, the San Diego County Water Authority is once again trying to make inroads into taking their QSA transferred water directly from the Imperial Valley, bypassing its current deliverer, the Metropolitan Water District.

Dan Denham, assistant general manager of the SDCWA, proposed several pipeline scenarios for QSA-conserved water at the meeting of the Imperial Irrigation District Tuesday, June 18.

Denham proposed several pipeline routes, two southern and one northern from various points in the Valley to San Diego County.

One route, the most southern, would start at the tail end of the All-American Canal and the pipeline would skim across the U.S./Mexico border and turn north after Campo, pass by Jamul and eventually end up in the San Vicente Reservoir.

The other southern plan called the “Tunnel Alignment” would begin at the All-American Canal by Seeley, pass by Mt. Laguna and end at the San Vicente Reservoir.

The northern choice would start at the Westside Main Canal, go north to the southwestern corner of the Salton Sea, cross over the mountains by Ocotillo Wells and Ranchita further west, pass Lake Henshaw and end at the Twin Oaks Water Treatment Plant. Denham said the advantage of the northern route was that in the northern part of San Diego County, it would be easiest to gravity feed the conserved water to the rest of the county. 

The cost to receive delivery from the MWD has risen 6% annually and Denham said that would be true for the foreseeable future. 

“The cost savings would be something like buying instead of renting,” Denham told the board.

Besides finding a direct route for the transferred water, the plan includes creating storage and creating renewable energy as the water comes down off the San Ysidro Mountain. Denham said pumping the water up the mountain would likely be done with renewable energy.

Written into the QSA contract, SDCWA and the IID can extend the transfer contract with mutual consent by 30 additional years to 2077, but the request must be made no later than 2040. SDCWA also has the ability to select a different route for its delivered water.

Denham suggested possibly paying for the construction through private-public partnerships, finding partners with compatible needs such as Mexico, the IID, and other entities.

Denham said project planning, design, environmental permits, and construction could take 20 years. 

According to Denham, MWD needs to be informed of SDCWA not needing their water conveyance system five years in advance of any change. The project is in the preliminary planning stage and updating costs, risk analysis, legal analysis, and environmental and permitting studies will occupy the next nine to 12 months, only if the IID board agrees with the plans.

Board member Jim Hanks told Denham, “San Diego has been a better partner to us than anyone else. We need to talk.”

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