Riverside Supervisors Contemplate $350 Million Tax for Salton Sea

A proposed tax district would help pay for restoration of the upper half of the Salton Sea if approved.

By California News Wire Services, News Partner | May 21, 2019 5:26 pm ET

RIVERSIDE COUNTY, CA — Riverside County supervisors Tuesday approved a four- month postponement of a meeting on a proposed tax district to pay for restoration of the upper half of the Salton Sea.

In a 5-0 vote without comment, the Board of Supervisors moved the previously set June 11 meeting to Oct. 15, at the same location — the North Shore Beach & Yacht Club at 9115 Sea View Drive in Mecca.

The meeting time is currently set for 11 a.m. Any changes will be publicized.

According to Executive Office staff, the date change was necessary because drawing up specifics of how the proposed Salton Sea Enhanced Infrastructure Financing District will work requires additional time, and sending notices to everyone who may be impacted by the tax district has also proved to be a chore.

Supervisors Manuel Perez and Jeff Hewitt are seated on the Enhanced Infrastructure Financing District Authority formed by the board last October. Both men are slated to attend the October meeting.

The Salton Sea EIFD will require voter support to be established.

EIFDs were authorized under Senate Bill 628 in 2014 and permit bond sales to finance construction of private and public projects. The estimated cost of shoring up the north end of the receding 360-square-mile lake is $350 million, according to the Executive Office.

The proposed EIFD would be fixed between the Imperial County line to the south and the boundaries of Coachella and Indio to the north, as well as west to the city limit of La Quinta and roughly 40 miles east of state Route 111. Torres-Martinez tribal land would be exempt.

An EIFD relies on “tax increment” to pay off the bonds issued in support of it. Tax increment is generated by projects within specified locations that increase property values.

Perez, whose Fourth District encompasses the Salton Sea’s north side, has been advocating measures to pay for projects aimed at preserving and fortifying what’s left of the dying lake, most of which is in Imperial County.

According to the Executive Office, the Salton Sea EIFD would ensure funding for an earthen dam to control water loss.

Sorting out what strategies to employ for preservation of the Salton Sea has been a two-decade process lacking results.

Executive Office staff pointed out in October that $25 million from Proposition 50 in 2006 was expended on research but no game plan for saving the Sea. Similarly, $400 million from Proposition 84 in 2014 was earmarked for projects to mitigate environmental damage from the shrinking body of water, but there was nothing proactive done.

Proposition 66, the $4 billion water bond measure approved by voters last June, set aside $200 million for Sea projects. If the state continues to tarry without applying funds to a fix, evaporation will continue, exposing more lakebed and raising public health risks, according to the county.

Water reclamation by local agencies and Mexico, plus the loss of Colorado River supplies that originally fed the Salton Sea, have caused water levels to drop and salinity to spike.

For 15 years, the Coachella Valley Water District and the Imperial Irrigation District agreed to replenish some of the water drawn out of the sea in order to limit lakebed exposure, but that mitigation effort ended on Jan. 1, 2018, leaving the area’s future ecology in doubt.

— By City News Service

AB 854 – Some very bad legislation…

On March 5, 2019, the Imperial County Building & Construction Trades sent a letter to Assemblymember Chad Mayes (R-Yucca Valley) asking him to reconsider AB 854, legislation he introduced that has several issues.

This is the letter in opposition of AB 854. If you agree that this piece of legislation is bad for the Imperial Valley contact Assemblymember Mayes, Assemblymember Eduardo Garcia and Senator Ben Hueso.

IID statement regarding Assemblyman Mayes’ legislation

Below is a statement form the Imperial Irrigation District regarding legislation authored by Assemblymember Chad Mayes (R-Yucca Valley). Immediately after the statement is the five-page letter from IID General Counsel to the Assemblymember.

IID statement regarding Assemblyman Mayes’ legislation

Post Date:03/01/2019 9:24 AM

Imperial Irrigation District and the IID Board of Directors have proudly served and represented its valued customers in Imperial and Coachella valleys with some of the lowest energy rates in California.

Ten local residents from the IID service area in the Coachella Valley serve on IID’s Energy Consumers Advisory Committee, which meets monthly and advises the IID Board of Directors on energy matters.

The legislation introduced last week by Assemblyman Mayes is a serious matter for the IID and can only be seen as a direct attack on the authority of the IID Board and the water and energy rights it holds in trust and to which it is duty-bound to protect.

The district is concerned about the far-reaching impacts of this bill as well as the potential legal matters, which would surely ensue.

The IID Board is expected to discuss the matter during a special meeting Friday, March 1, and will be meeting with Assemblyman Mayes next week to discuss in greater detail.

As part of the long-standing compromise agreement with the Coachella Valley Water District to serve energy to the area, IID pays CVWD 8 percent of its  energy net proceeds ($45 million to date), an additional benefit to the Coachella Valley.

Desert Sun: Norma Sierra Galindo wins third term on IID Board.

Despite big money donations from farmers opposed to the IID water policies to serve all Imperial County residents, Norma Sierra Galindo leaves her opponent in the dust.

Norma Sierra Galindo

Imperial County voters re-elected Norma Sierra Galindo to the Imperial Irrigation District’s board of directors, rejecting a bid from Carlos Zaragoza, who was backed by a handful of farmers seeking greater control over the region’s Colorado River water.

With all precincts reporting early Wednesday, Galindo had won 53 percent of the votes, compared to 47 percent for Zaragoza, a property tax consultant. Zaragoza declined to share his opinion on the Abatti lawsuit during the campaign, saying only that he would “support the law as determined by the courts.” He received at least $5,000 from farmers who had previously supported Imperial Valley First, a group that has fought IID over water rights and campaigned against sitting board members in several elections.

Zaragoza received $1,000 in campaign funds from Jimmy Abatti, Mike’s brother and the immediate past president of the Imperial County Farm Bureau, who has previously sued IID several times over its water policies. Zaragoza also got $1,000 each from farmers Kevin Grizzle, Mike Morgan, Jack Vessey and Doug Westmoreland. Separately, Morgan gave $5,000 to Imperial Valley First, which registered to campaign against Galindo.

The complete article can be accessed on the Desert Sun website by clicking here.

Commentary (from AgAlert): Proposition 3 water bond represents important step

Below is a snippet from an article published on the California Farm Bureau’s AgAlert by Justin Fredrickson, environmental policy analyst for the California Farm Bureau Federation.

“Indeed, it’s no accident that numerous, solution-oriented conservation groups strongly endorse this bond, along with representatives of agriculture and business, flood-control districts and water districts throughout the state. Conservation groups supporting Proposition 3 include the Nature Conservancy, National Audubon Society, National Wildlife Federation, Planning and Conservation League, Sustainable Conservation, California Trout, Natural Heritage Institute, Ducks Unlimited, California Waterfowl Association and Save the Bay.

“That’s because Proposition 3 includes funding for conservancies, recycling, water conservation, stormwater capture, fish, waterfowl, Salton Sea restoration and forest management.”

You can read the entire article here.

LA Times: As states near deal on Colorado River shortage, California looks at water cuts of as much as 8%

As states near deal on Colorado River shortage, California looks at water cuts of as much as 8%

After years of stop-and-go talks, California and two other states that take water from the lower Colorado River are nearing an agreement on how to share delivery cuts if a formal shortage is declared on the drought-plagued waterway.

Under the proposed pact, California — the river’s largest user — would reduce diversions earlier in a shortage than it would if the lower-basin states strictly adhered to a water-rights pecking order. California’s huge river take would drop 4.5% to 8% as the shortage progressed.

With occasional years of relief, the river that greens farm fields and fills faucets from Colorado to California has been stuck in drought since 2000. A shortage declaration has been looming over the seven-state basin for more than a decade, only to be narrowly averted time and again when rain and snow in the upper basin pushed reservoir levels above the trigger point.

Nearly two decades of drought in the Colorado River Basin have taken their toll on Lake Mead, a major source of water for Southern California. (John Locher / Associated Press)

But flows into Lake Powell — one of the Colorado’s two massive reservoirs — fell to a little more than a third of the average for the April-through-July period this year. And September’s inflow was negligible, less than 1% of the average. Looking at those numbers, federal officials say the U.S. Interior Department could declare a shortage in 2020.

“It’s pretty clear we’re in a deepening long-term drought cycle,” said Jeffrey Kightlinger, general manager of the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, which has been importing Colorado River water to the region since the early 1940s. “It’s in everybody’s interest to prevent the system from cratering.”

The basin’s entire storage system is 47% full. Lake Powell, which stores runoff from the upper basin and releases it to Lake Mead, is 45% full. Mead, the source of Southern California’s river water, is 38% full.

The Interior secretary has never declared a shortage on the Colorado. But it has been known for years that the river is over-allocated. The basin states divvied up the flows in the early 20th century — a period that in hindsight was unusually wet and presented an unrealistic picture of what the Colorado could produce year in and year out.

Diversions are regulated by a complicated system of river compacts and water rights that call for Arizona and Nevada to take the first cuts in times of a lower-basin shortage. California, with some of the oldest river rights, is further down the line.

The sprawling Imperial Irrigation District and other farm districts in southeastern California control roughly 75% of California’s 4.4 million-acre-foot share. Imperial is the single largest user on the entire length of the river, which starts at the Continental Divide in the Colorado Rockies and has an average annual flow of roughly 15 million acre-feet.

Metropolitan has nearly doubled its base allocation of 550,000 acre-feet through agreements with Imperial and other irrigation districts that fallow crop land and sell their unused river supplies. Those deals would help cushion Metropolitan, which serves Southern California, if a shortage is declared. (An acre-foot is enough to supply more than two households for a year.)

Metropolitan would also benefit from water it has been able to bank in Lake Mead under 2007 drought guidelines that have allowed states to leave unused portions of their river allocations in the reservoir. Under the previous use-it-or-lose-it rules, states had to take their full allocation every year.

The 2007 framework specified that the Department of the Interior would declare a shortage when Lake Mead’s elevation hit 1,075 feet. Nevada and Arizona, which have rights junior to California, would then start delivery reductions.

Under the proposed drought contingency plan, Arizona and Nevada would continue to take the first cuts, which would be deeper than outlined in 2007. At the same time, California would reduce its river diversions when Mead levels hit 1,045 feet — earlier in the shortage than previously envisioned.

California’s cuts, shared by Imperial and Metropolitan, would increase as the lake level dropped but be no greater than 350,000 acre-feet a year.

Arizona is still working out the details of how to apportion its cuts among in-state users. And the lower-basin water districts have yet to approve the drought plan, which parties are hoping to finalize by December.

“I’ve got my own people asking tough questions. But I believe we can do it,” Metropolitan’s Kightlinger said.

A drought plan will not end debate among lower-basin users, who are confronting the fact that their use is outstripping the long-term supply.

“It’s not sustainable,” Kightlinger said. “We have to push it down or grow supply” with other sources.

The complete article by Betine Boxall can be read here.

Calipat Sides With The Coalition

From KXO Radio:

Written by George Gale Published: 26 September 2018

(The City of Calipatria the latest to support the IID)…The City Council adopted a resolution Tuesday.

The resolution supports and joins the Americus Brief to be filed by the Imperial Valley Coalition For Fair Sharing of Water in the Abatti Versus Imperial Irrigation District litigation. The litigation deals with the IID’s water rights for water distribution in Imperial County. The Abatti Lawsuit contends the District does not have the right to distribute the water and that the water rights belong to local growers. The District contends they hold the water in trust for all water users in the county. The City of Calipatria is the latest to side with the coalition and the Americus Brief they plan to file in support of the IID’s legal efforts. The Coalition says they will seek support from the County Board of Supervisors at one of their October meetings, either on the 2nd or the 9th.