The San Diego County Water Authority board of directors has accepted an offer by the Imperial Irrigation District to settle all disputes over the mitigation of third-party socio-economic impacts related to the IID-Water Authority water transfer. Based on this settlement, the parties have agreed to dismiss the arbitration proceeding that had been pending before three retired judges and avoid future arbitrations related to socioeconomic impacts and related mitigation.
“This settlement allows IID to move ahead with its planned transition from fallowing to efficiency-based water conservation,” said IID General Manager Charles J. Hosken. “At the same time, we remove those remaining barriers to mitigating the socioeconomic impacts of fallowing in Imperial County that have persisted for far too long.”
"Mutual resolution of this important issue through a settlement agreement rather than continued arbitration demonstrates that the Water Authority's and IID's leaders can work as partners,” said Water Authority Board Chair Fern Steiner. “The implementation of the water transfer agreement has been and continues to be a goal of the Water Authority to ensure water reliability for the region. I am very pleased that we have reached a resolution through hard work and cooperative effort.”
The accord came in the midst of arbitration proceedings between the parties to resolve the fallowing issue. That process, according to Hosken, made it clear to both agencies that forging a compromise on fallowing made more sense than continuing to fight over the extent of impacts for the next decade.
The total value of the settlement is $50 million, of which SDCWA will pay $40 million and IID will commit $10 million. To date, the Water Authority has paid $10.48 million to IID, and will pay an additional $29.52 million over the next 10 years. A $6 million payment will be made in 2008 and annual payments of $2.94 million will be made from 2010 through 2017.
All of the money generated through the agreement will go toward addressing the third-party impacts of fallowing through 2017, the final year in which fallowing to mitigate environmental impacts to the Salton Sea is required of the district. Under the settlement agreement, IID will be responsible for all current and future mitigation obligations.
The Water Authority currently pays IID $296 per acre foot of transferred water. Last calendar year, the Water Authority paid IID approximately $11.5 million for 40,000 acre-feet of transferred water.
As a result of the settlement, arbitration between IID and SDCWA will be dismissed and the Water Authority will have no future role in determining when or where mitigation dollars are expended in the Imperial Valley. In addition, the IID board has adopted a set of principles to ensure that all funds intended to mitigate the socioeconomic impacts of fallowing are used for this purpose.
“There is not doubt that fallowing has hurt many in the agricultural services and farm labor segments of the economy,” Hosken said. “The resolution of this dispute will go a long way toward remedying this situation, finally, for those who need it most. This is a compromise whose time has come.”
The San Diego County Water Authority-Imperial Irrigation District water transfer provides water to San Diego County through water conservation measures in Imperial Valley. The transfer is the cornerstone of the Colorado River Quantification Settlement Agreement, a broader plan signed in 2003 that reduces California's use of Colorado River water to its basic annual apportionment of 4.4 million acre-feet.
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