Irrigation canals and control facilities in the Imperial Valley of California, USA.

EL CENTRO — The Imperial Irrigation District unanimously adopted a resolution Monday, November 18, which clearly established parameters for future Colorado River negotiations. IID General Manager Enrique Martinez said the resolution was necessary to stop innuendos and ambiguous talk among the Colorado River users about what IID would or would not cede in upcoming negotiations, and to give staff a clear guiding light for future direction.

The resolutions declared IID as the sole owner in perpetuity of the Valley’s present perfected water rights as recognized by the U.S. Supreme Court in Arizona v. California. Those rights were further protected by the Quantification Settlement Agreement.

Because IID has the most senior water rights on the river, capped at 3.1 million acre-feet as long as the QSA is in effect, and the Colorado is the Valley’s sole source of water, no other water district has a greater stake in the continued viability of the river, IID stated in the resolution.

IID affirmed that they are a faithful Colorado River community member, fulfilling all performance goals under the QSA, but at its base, it is a water delivery, not water transfer business.

IID noted in the declaration, the transferred water comes from the agricultural water users through active, efficiency-based measures of conservation that produce an economic stimulus in the Valley, unlike the past practice of fallowing.

The resolution declared in the best interest of the Valley and all water users, for the water to reach its fullest potential in the County, “no new transfers of water shall be made outside of the Imperial Valley.”

The declaration acknowledged the entrepreneur qualities of the farming community, which showed it could conserve significant water savings beyond the amount required for the urban transfer and what was required by local industry and cities for beneficial use in the Valley each year. Therefore, IID said additional water might be stored or used temporarily outside of the Valley.

The board emphasized the “leasing” aspect of the conserved water, which would not be used locally but would have to be eventually paid back by the borrower and returned to the Valley. The emphasis was on a temporary use of over-conserved water, not on a long-time transfer.

JB Hamby, who declared himself as an IID candidate for the retiring Bruce Kuhn’s District 2 seat, argued no water should ever be transferred from the Valley for any reason, but only used locally.

Director Kuhn said the water at issue was water not able to be used, it was only after all possible, beneficial users were satisfied, and any leftover water was rented for a fee, stored, but eventually the rights to the water stayed in the Valley and the water would return.

The board also noted some in the Valley were negotiating on their own. The resolution insisted IID is the exclusive agent for all Valley Colorado River matters.

Lastly, the resolution insisted any participation of the district meant the Salton Sea’s sustainability would be front and center. This includes the QSA contract.  

The resolution stated, “It is a fact that IID would not have agreed to become a signatory to the QSA, but for the state of California’s commitment to restore the Salton Sea. If the state were to fail in its commitment to a sustainable path forward at the sea, IID will consider the QSA to have been breached, and will take all actions necessary to preserve its own rights and the public health.”

Outside IID water consultant, Charles DuMars, one of the principal authors of the resolution, asked to read the final sentence of the resolution which said, “The Salton Sea is nothing less than the proving grounds of the QSA, and the Imperial Irrigation District Board of Directors will take no action, with respect to the temporary use of its water or water rights, that would impede its restoration.”

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