SAN DIEGO -- The Imperial Irrigation District (IID) and the San Diego County Water Authority (the Authority) today released for public review the terms of a water transfer agreement that promises to play a key role in advancing Western water policy while greatly benefiting Imperial and San Diego counties. The boards of directors for both agencies have not voted to approve the agreement, only to make the terms public. The boards will consider approval of the agreement in February.
"We have arrived at an agreement that would help provide the security of a long-term reliable water supply for San Diego County at a price that favorably competes with comparable supplies and the price we pay the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California (MWD), currently our sole imported-water supplier," said Chris Frahm, chair of the Authority board of directors. "Through this agreement, we are not just helping to secure our water future, but the water future of Southern California, the state of California, and the Colorado River Basin states."
"The agreement also provides advantages to the Imperial Valley," said Don Cox, president of the IID board of directors. "The IID will receive the funding necessary to go forward with innovative water conservation efforts that we and our landowners can undertake without resorting to the fallowing of productive farm ground. Through this agreement, IID can assist in California' s search for new water supplies and protect our water rights and our agriculturally- based community at the same time."
State Senator David G. Kelley (R-Idyllwild), who represents all of Imperial County and portions of San Diego County, called the water transfer contract a "landmark agreement."
"This landmark agreement -- the largest water transfer in the history of California -- is the cornerstone component of the California 4.4 Plan and is critical to the solution to the Bay-Delta," said Kelley. "It will bolster Southern California's economy by protecting the Imperial Valley's water rights and agricultural economy while assuring a reliable supply of water for the San Diego region's $87 billion economic base."
Under the agreement's terms, IID would transfer conserved agricultural water to the Authority for at least 45 years. Either party could extend the agreement by 30 years. Transfers would total 20,000 acre-feet during the first year and would increase annually in 20,000 acre-feet increments until they reached a minimum of 130,000 acre-feet or a maximum of 200,000 acre-feet. If IID determines there is additional water available, the two agencies may agree to transfer an additional 100,000 acre-feet a year, starting no sooner than 10 years after the start of deliveries.
The water's cost would be determined through a formula outlined in the contract. The formula takes the price the Authority pays MWD for water plus other MWD rates and charges and subtracts the estimated price (based on legal interpretations) for transporting, or "wheeling," the transferred water through MWD's Colorado River Aqueduct. Once that figure is determined, the price would be discounted. The discount is 25 percent the first year, declining gradually until stabilizing at 5 percent in year 17 of the agreement.
In addition, if the Authority experiences water shortages as defined in the agreement, the Authority will pay IID a "shortage performance premium."
The agreement provides for a "price redetermination" process through which the price may adjust to reflect the market value of IID water. The redetermination process would start no sooner than 10 years after the start of deliveries, provided that an active California water market develops.
IID would begin transferring the water to the Authority after a series of contingencies are satisfied. The Authority must arrange a cost-effective and reliable conveyance method for the water. IID must meet specified targets for participation by its farmers. Both agencies must be able to reasonably mitigate environmental impacts of the transfer.
The final terms of the contract were developed through a negotiations process that addressed matters raised during a public review period of the agreement's draft terms, which were released in July 1996. Both agencies are planning public briefings and hearings on the final terms during the next two months.
California is entitled to 4.4 million acre-feet of Colorado River water a year. It regularly exceeds that amount by about 20 percent, with almost all the extra water going to MWD. This is a concern to other states that rely on Colorado River water. Secretary of the Interior Bruce Babbitt has asked California to develop a plan to live within its water entitlement. In response, the Colorado River Board of California, working with State Department of Water Resources Director David Kennedy, is developing the California 4.4 Plan, and the IID water transfer is one of the plan's cornerstones.
"A water conservation and transfer program of this magnitude is a linchpin of the California 4.4 Plan," said state Water Resources Director David Kennedy. "This agreement demonstrates to the other Colorado River states California's resolve to successfully complete the 4.4 Plan process.
"The announcement today is a significant step forward in the marathon effort to complete the California 4.4 Plan. I look forward to hearing comments during the public review process."
"Negotiating this agreement so that it meets the needs of our Imperial Valley constituents, the needs of our partners in San Diego County, and the needs of other agencies and states who depend on the use of Colorado River water has been a significant challenge," said Cox. "It's extremely satisfying to see those negotiations come to fruition and to have the opportunity to help shape the future of Western water policy, while recognizing that IID can't solve all of California's water shortage problems."
"This agreement with IID promises progress on a number of Western water issues," Frahm said. "It would help alleviate concerns of other Colorado River basin states by reducing California's use of Colorado River water. It would reduce future Southern California demands on Northern California water and alleviate pressure on the sensitive Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta by providing a Southern California solution to a Southern California water problem.
"It would help free a portion of MWD' s limited supplies to meet the needs of its other Southern California member agencies. Most importantly to San Diego County, the water transfer would provide a higher level of water security for our 2.6 million residents and 87 billion economy."
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