IID adopts new fallowing program

The Imperial Irrigation District (IID) has modified its fallowing program in order to work toward a more integrated water management strategy.

At a special board meeting on March 25th, the IID Board of Directors approved a new farm-unit fallowing program to replace their previous fallowing programs. The new program sets a compensation rate of $150/AF of water conserved by fallowing, with 80% of the proceeds directed to the landowner and 20% to tenant farmers. This is a departure from the previous program, which set rates of $125 per acre-foot, with 100% of the compensation going to the landowners.  Under the previous program, landowners and tenants may have independent agreements among themselves, but IID had no control in those arrangements.

The rates were set mindful of that the district soon plans to issue revenue bonds on the water transfer revenues.  According to IID’s finance department’s projections, higher rates may lower debt service coverage, which in turn could lower the rating received by credit rating agencies.

IID uses water conserved through the fallowing program each year to fulfill annual water transfer delivery schedule to San Diego County Water Authority under the Quantification Settlement Agreement, meet Salton Sea mitigation requirements, repay overruns of its Colorado River entitlement and create extraordinary conservation and intentionally created surplus, which help the district manage its allotment from the Colorado River.  The new program will go into effect on July 1, 2014.

IID is meeting its Colorado River payback obligations this year through its Revised Equitable Distribution Plan (EDP) and 2014 Apportionment adopted in October 2013. Because of hydrologic conditions and the elevation of Lake Mead at the beginning of the 2013, the federal Inadvertent Overrun and Payback Policy requires the district to repay the remainder of its 2011 overrun and its entire 2012 overrun in 2014.

In addition to changing rates, the district has made further efforts to encourage participation by relaxing requirements for which fields can be fallowed. Under the new program, farmers can now group partial or multiple fields into a single farm unit.

Changes to the program were developed by an ad hoc committee composed of representatives from from the IID board of directors, IID staff, the Imperial Valley Vegetable Growers Association, Water Conservation Advisory Board and the Coalition of Labor, Agriculture and Business.

In another item considered at the special meeting, the IID allayed landowners concerns about conservation affecting historical water baselines by folding both delivered water and conserved water into historical baseline calculations so that the calculations are not negatively affected by participation in the conservation program.

Written by Stratecon Staff