Editor's note: This is the last of a series by Brawley farmer, Rusty Jordan, on his view of valley water issues.
If the Imperial Irrigation District is a trustee of the Colorado River water right for the Imperial Valley, then what are the obligations of the trustee? If not sufficiently enumerated in Water District law, then where should the beneficiaries look for clarification as to the obligations of the trustee? As has been noted in my previous articles, the trustee has lifted 1,000,000 acre feet (a/f) per year in rights from the district oner the past 17 years. How can the beneficiaries hold the trustee accountable?
As the IID stated, “We own the water right. The landowners have only a right to service,” one is led into the poisonous labyrinth envisioned by water attorney David Oasis of Allen Matkins, a California-based law firm, and spread to IID’s last General Manager Kevin Kelley and now to IID’s legal team. A hint can be found in the court filings of IID before California Superior Court Judge Roland Candee when Allen Matkins for the IID said if the IID Board wanted, they could transfer all the water to other users. The Appeals Court enters into this realm with the misspeak of ‘right to service.’
The landowners will fight because they have to. If there is a trust and the trustee owns the title to water, the beneficiary is the land. Certainly, the trustee’s job is not to enrich itself at the cost of the beneficiary. The trustee’s job is not to try and take from the beneficiary. From the Quantitative Settlement Agreement (QSA) rural to urban water transfer or the MWD conservation agreement extension, the trustee keeps the lion’s share of the money.
IID said the trustee’s job is to protect the assets it was given and holds in trust. IID’s simple function is to order, transmit, and deliver water. If the trustee is incompetent what can beneficiaries do?
The IID board is populated with people that care and are concerned for the area where they live and they need the money they earn as directors. In the job, they are beyond their experience. They don’t have the funds to individually hire outside council, or experts. The adversaries, the coastal cities, who want the water have limitless budgets, a corrupt court system, a bent legislature. There must be limits to what the IID can do, they must be held accountable and if grievous enough, have their decisions reversed. If their pronouncements continue, they should be removed as trustees.
The District has become so addicted to the transfer of money, they can’t protect the citizens of Imperial Valley from the spewing toxic air from the exposed playas of the Salton Sea. They can’t declare a breach and stop delivering water to the agreements, they don’t know how to live without the money which is a drug to them.
There is no morality in cities. Water is growth. Their word is not a bond.
The families who have spent over 100 years working the land are the people who give voice to the land and the water. Where is the fairness? We see in San Diego at the Court of Appeals, a group who uses Orwellian language. The Court of Appeals would relieve the District of responsibility to its beneficiaries. The Court of Appeals makes IID into more than it is. The Abatti case finally has an issue that can get outside the California labyrinth. The simple majority vote of three people, a majority of the IID Board cannot give or sell away the trust’s main asset, it cannot change the trust that holds the water. The decision of the Appellate Court is wrong!
Tim Quinn of MWD said, “If there is a shortage of water on the Colorado, MWD will keep it’s aqueduct full, they might have to pay more for water to Palo Verde or Imperial.”
San Diego is wining and dining the Imperial fold, wanting to build another canal to San Diego. They will keep their new canal full too.
There are three users that can give up water to fill the aqueducts. Palo Verde 450,000 a/f, Bard 25,000 a/f, Imperial 3.1 million a/f. Current capacity 1.3 million a/f, with new San Diego pipe at least 1.5 mm a/f. What will be left? Don’t forget Coachella takes 400,000 a/f, which leaves 2.5 million for PVID, Bard, IID.
Imperial Valley must say no! No to conflicts of interest! No to more transfers, no to more straws! Yes to California taking care of the Salton Sea environmental problem, or NO to the QSA, MWD 1988 transfers.
It is sad that we have come to this.