Valley Voice: Why this Drought Contingency Plan is no friend to the Salton Sea

The following Op-Ed was published in the Desert Sun on March 30, 2019. You can read the opinion piece on the Desert Sun’s website by clicking here.

OPINION

Valley Voice: Why this Drought Contingency Plan is no friend to the Salton Sea

Norma Sierra Galindo, Special to The Desert Sun Published 5:00 a.m. PT March 30, 2019

The March 26 opinion piece by Tom Buschatzke and 13 other Colorado River Drought Contingency Plan proponents to persuade the public that the DCP is good for the Salton Sea would have been better served – and made more believable – by a show of good faith rather than a show of force.

People who know the Salton Sea as an actual place, rather than a place on a map, can tell the difference.

That Buschatzke and his fellow river contractors would be defiantly for a plan that turns the Salton Sea into its first casualty is sad but unsurprising. For them, the Salton Sea was the final impediment on the road to the DCP, not the finish line.   

But for the nongovernmental organizations that lent their names to the op-ed, the DCP sans Salton Sea is an awkward compromise they must feel the need to defend. That’s because the outstanding feature they share is that they are funding partners (read recipients) of the Walton Family Foundation,a private charitable organization led by the heirs to the Walmart fortune.

The Walton group was an early leading advocate of the DCP and, to be fair, has advocated on behalf of the Salton Sea, too. But now that IID has decided to stand with the sea and not with the DCP, the WFF and its satellite groups want to make sure the district stands alone. 

The WFF used to be for the Salton Sea, before it was against it.

Foundation executives used to fly over it every so often, touching down long enough to commiserate with local officials on how best to meet the environmental challenges there. Now they perpetuate the myth that a DCP with or without IID will have zero impact on the sea, and they cite IID board minutes from 2018 to prove that we agree with them.  

Of course, that was last year’s DCP that didn’t cut IID out of the deal and try to “disappear” the Salton Sea, a critical fact omitted from the op-ed that, in addition to being a distortion of the truth, renders the 2019 DCP a completely different project. 

What makes it so distinct is the plan’s exclusive reliance on the seemingly inexhaustible water portfolio of the Metropolitan Water District, which might be fine when resources are plentiful, as they are now, but what about when they aren’t?

How likely is it that these good hydrological times that we are currently enjoying will last for the duration of the DCP – and what happens when they don’t?

And if the unthinkable does happen, as it so often does whenever there’s some tradeoff that involves historic river-sharing pacts and the Salton Sea, and MWD is casting about for nearly 2 million acre-feet of water to meet California’s storage obligations under the DCP, how will the sea fare when the only place to find that water is in the Imperial Valley?

Norma Sierra Galindo, vice president of the Imperial Irrigation District board of directors.