U.S. Water News Online
CALEXICO, Calif. -- Illustrating strong cross-border ties,
Calexico has sided with neighboring Mexicali in opposing a
canal-lining project that would boost deliveries to the San Diego
region but dry up irrigation water needed by Mexican growers.
Calexico argues that its economic and environmental interests were
not taken into account in a multimillion-dollar U.S. plan to line the
All-American Canal, which carries Colorado River water to the
Imperial Valley. The city is therefore seeking to intervene in the
federal lawsuit brought by U.S. conservation groups and Mexicali's
Economic Development Council against the U.S. Department of the
Interior and the Bureau of Reclamation.
Businesses in Calexico, a city of 40,000, are heavily dependent on
buyers from neighboring Mexicali, with a population of more than 1
million. City officials fear that any detrimental effect on Mexicali
could prove devastating to Calexico.
"More than 90 percent of our sales tax revenue comes in from
Mexicali," Calexico Mayor Alex Perrone said. "We live on the retail
The lawsuit, filed in federal court in Las Vegas, seeks to halt a
plan to replace an unlined and leaky, 23-mile stretch of the canal
with a concrete-lined channel and send the saved water -- enough to
supply some 134,000 households -- to San Diego County.
The lawsuit alleges that the project will hurt Mexicali farmers
who for decades have relied on seepage from the canal for their
fields, and as a result have established rights to the water. It also
says important wetlands in Mexico fed by the seepage will be harmed.
Calexico's petition, filed Oct. 31, sides with Mexicali and the
U.S. conservation groups against the project. It argues that the U.S.
agencies failed to consider economic and environmental effects the
project will have on the city.
"When they start building the new canal, just imagine the dust
that goes into the environment," Perrone said.
Calexico is not seeking to intervene on the water-rights question.
"That's Mexicali's issue," the mayor said.
Cash-strapped Calexico is counting on the Mexicali Economic
Development Council to pay the costs of the lawsuit. "The city is
very concerned about this project, and is very fortunate that they
can have someone pay their fees," said Jennifer Lyon, Calexico's city
The council agreed. "Calexico and Mexicali are sister cities, and
we're linked like twins," executive director René Acuña
Several Colorado River water users are also seeking to participate
in the case, but unlike Calexico, they are supporting the
All-American Canal project. They are: the Central Arizona Water
Conservation District; the states of California and Nevada; the
Southern Nevada Water Authority; the San Diego County Water
Authority; the Imperial Irrigation District; the Metropolitan Water
District of Southern California; and the La Jolla, Rincon, San
Pasqual, Pauma and Pala Bands of Mission Indians.
John Liarakos, a spokesman for the San Diego County Water
Authority, said the canal-lining project is moving forward and is in
the construction-and-design phase. The Imperial Irrigation District,
in charge of building the new link, expects to solicit bids early
next year and complete the project by 2008.
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