EL CENTRO — Imperial Irrigation District Division 2 candidates Ryan Childers and John Brooks (JB) Hamby held a virtual forum hosted by El Centro Chamber of Commerce and moderated by Veronica Henderson Tuesday, October 6.
Hamby voiced his support of a countywide two-thirds vote before more water is transferred to urban areas or any water transfer contract is expanded. He also said he has been studying the Colorado River for several years and has a depth of knowledge that he will bring to the table. Because of Hamby’s travels around the Colorado River, meeting other river users, he said he has built friendships and can pull coalitions across the river.
Childers said he was uniquely qualified because of his education and experience. He spoke about his accounting degree, being able to read budgets, understand his way around a spreadsheet, and his law degree. Running his own business, his work, and sitting on school boards he said have given him a depth of experience and broad range of diversity for being a Division 2 director. Childers mentioned his lifelong residency in Division 2.
“Since this is a chamber forum, I’m going to ask how you being a director can help your voters prosper,” Henderson asked.
Hamby launched into the value of the Valley’s water and the devastation the 2003 Quantitative Settlement Agreement and how fallowing fields cut thousands of acres out of production, with a loss of farm auxiliary jobs.
“Keep our water here for the Valley to use, don’t monetize it for the benefit of the desert cities,” Hamby said.
“The IID has a critical and central role to the economy,” Childers answered. “Water is necessary for growth and the electrical infrastructure needs to be built out.”
Childers said Calexico lost a chance for growth because of a lack of infrastructure and jobs were lost. He said Brawley lost a housing development for the same reason. Childers said making developers pay $8-12 million for a substation is unfair. Especially since other developers will follow in the same area and not have to contribute to the same substation.
Hamby said giving developers free $12 million is not fair to the most vulnerable in the Valley.
Hamby opposed the IID’s decision to sell public lands to a private developer for the Inland Port. He said several millions went out for a developer instead of being used to clean up the environmental disaster at the Salton Sea.
Hamby and Childers each opposed electric rate increases as well as further water transfers.
Childers disagreed with cutting the salary for IID directors, saying it would limit directors to only farmers and wealthy retirees.
“Hamby’s pledge to cut the directors’ salaries is not good,” Childers said.
Although Childers opposes rate hikes, he said he would not make a promise he might not be able to keep.
“I remember in the 1970s we had a devastating earthquake and a flood. If something catastrophic happens, we have to rebuild. I won’t make empty promises, but I don’t want to raise rates,” Childers said.
Hamby said the District does not have the capital to build its own geothermal plant. A public-run facility is not in a position to be a developer, the private sectors should do the building. The IID, by allowing developers to build geothermal plants, would receive tax revenue, highest paying jobs, green energy, and lithium.
Childers agreed, saying the money necessary to build a geothermal plant is massive. The IID couldn’t raise the money, but it can set policy, and the plant would generate a lot of electricity and brine full of important minerals.
Childers said lithium alone could bring in $860 million in revenue, and the plant would be another source for the District to procure electricity. Childers said the jobs provided by the geothermal station would average around $70,000, with excellent jobs for young engineers and bio-scientist — keeping young people coming back to the Valley. He said the IID should encourage such endeavors but not be the producer.
Ending the El Centro Chamber of Commerce forum Hamby reiterated the value of water and preserving it for the County. He plans to put the power in the people’s hands with a two-third vote to transfer money and he will stop the San Diego pipeline.
Childers said his district needs to elect a leader with track records and the IID should not be the first place for one’s first job or first board position.
“The IID plays a key role for development to occur and a stable amount of water to grow,” Childers said. “There is a bright future for all.”