EL CENTRO — El Centro farmer Michael Abatti filed Contempt of Court charges December 30, against the Imperial Irrigation District after failed attempts to change IID’s latest contract with Heber Geothermal. Abatti won a court decision in 2017 when Superior Court Judge Brooks Anderholt ruled the district’s 2013 Equitable Distribution Plan was unlawful and IID could not disadvantage farmers in favor of all other water users.
The ruling stated the “Imperial Irrigation District is not empowered to enter into any new contracts committing to the provision of water to any non-domestic or non-agricultural user which guarantees the supply of water during times of shortage in a manner that is inconsistent with the courts’ finding herein.”
“It’s unfortunate I have to do this since, as I informed the district, it is very easy to fix the terms of the agreement to comply with the Court’s ruling,” Abatti said in a press release.
IID, according to a board agenda memorandum, has had a water agreement with Heber Geothermal since 1985 and has renewed the contract every 10 years, with the amount of water delivered changing from 5,000 acre feet, to 1,800 acre feet. The latest contract signed in 2015, two years after Anderholt’s decision, which is still in appeal, gives Heber Geothermal 500 extra acre feet, now totaling 2,300 acre feet. The increase is due to a change in the plant’s cooling tower where extra water is necessary to operate at its permitted capacity of 52 megawatts.
The memorandum said IID received a letter last October from Abatti’s lawyer, Lee Hejmanowski, stating IID’s amendment with Heber Geothermal violates the court’s ruling. The letter informed the district Abatti might seek a ruling of contempt if IID were to sell an additional 500 acre feet, which is approximately one percent of the total Colorado River IID allotment. The letter said the increase “thus establishes a priority to water in favor of a non-agricultural, non-domestic user.”
Heber Geothermal would pay IID $3,657,750 for the water over four years.
On November 18, 2019, at a regular board meeting, IID approved the Amendment with Heber Geothermal.