Coachella Says No to IID Petition but Yes to Salton Sea Restoration

At its January regular board meeting, the Board of Directors of the Coachella Valley Water District voted to oppose the petition filed by the Imperial Irrigation District last November before the State Water Resources Control Board. The petition asked the Board to order the parties to the Quantification Settlement Agreement (“QSA”) to meet and confer to achieve a consensus on a feasible restoration plan for the Salton Sea and later hold an adjudicatory hearing to issue a modified order making state implementation and funding of the plan a condition of the transfers under the QSA. For further discussion of Imperial’s Petition, see “Imperial Irrigation District Petitions State Board for Salton Sea Restoration”, JOW, January 2015.

The staff recommendation to oppose Imperial’s petition was based on the concern that the modified order sought by Imperial could jeopardize Coachella’s acquisition of up to 103,000 acre-feet per year of conserved water from Imperial if the State of California fails to fund and implement a Salton Sea restoration plan. The acquisition of water from Imperial is a critical component of Coachella’s water management plan. With the first block of 50,000 acre-feet acquired at a price of $50/AF (2003$) and the remaining at $125/AF (2003$), Coachella would be unlikely to acquire a substitute water supply on such favorable terms.

While opposing Imperial’s petition, the Coachella Board reaffirmed its support of Salton Sea restoration. In its resolution of opposition, the Coachella Board resolve to:

  •  “recognize the importance of an ecologically healthy Salton Sea to the quality of life of people living within its service area and the entire Coachella Valley and elsewhere”
  •  “support restoration of the Salton Sea resulting in a sustainable, environmentally stable Sea”
  •  “express its willingness to participate, as a member of the (Salton Sea) Authority, in voluntary discussions regarding the most effective way to restore the Sea and most promising funding opportunities.”

Probably few were surprised with the outcome. The economic advantages of Coachella’s acquisition of Colorado River water under the QSA are substantial. Despite Coachella’s support for Salton Sea restoration, placing their water transfers at risk was evidently not an attractive idea.

Written by Rodney T. Smith, Ph. D.