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Prepared Remarks by Erik Ortega, President IID Board of Directors, on DCP, March 18, 2019
Today in closed session, the IID Board of Directors took no action on the Drought Contingency Plan and has so advised the Colorado River Board of California, which is holding its own special meeting to take up the DCP matter later in the day.
If the DCP moves forward without IID, then what the other parties are saying is that a plan that eliminates the river’s largest single water user and ignores the environmental challenges posed by the Salton Sea still checks all the other boxes for them.
By forging ahead, what they are saying is that the only acceptable way to check the boxes marked IID and Salton Sea is to erase them. What they’re also saying is that getting the DCP done is more important than getting it right.
The IID Board of Directors did not opt out of the DCP. That decision was made for it earlier this month when the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California rode in on a white horse to rescue the DCP by writing IID and the Salton Sea out of it.
The other water contractors, along with the Bureau of Reclamation, could have rejected the MWD proposal as a cynical, short-sighted attempt to sidestep the Salton Sea issue, but they embraced it instead as an elegant solution to the problem, which is to basically pretend it doesn’t exist.
It was at this point that the idea of crossing the finish line together, which had been one of the foremost goals of the DCP, was quietly discarded in favor of getting the deal done and ensuring, at all costs, that it be seen as remote or disconnected from the Salton Sea.
This is how, after more than four years of negotiations, the DCP process ends for IID: With a Hobson’s choice that forces the board to pick either the DCP or the Salton Sea, but not both.
It will surprise no one that IID has come down on the side of the Salton Sea.
That’s because, for IID, the Salton Sea will always be the proving grounds of the DCP, just as it has been for the Quantification Settlement Agreement, and thus its finish line. Those who deny it, including the people meeting in Phoenix tomorrow to toast their achievement and each other, are just fooling themselves or have other agendas.
IID has one agenda: to be part of a DCP that treats the Salton Sea with the dignity and due consideration it deserves, not as its first casualty. That kind of DCP is still possible if the parties take the longer view and understand that, as problems go, the Salton Sea is far easier to deal with on the front end of a historic river-sharing pact than at the back.
And that is why IID stands with the Salton Sea, even when no one else will. It has become a familiar, if lonely, place to be, but it’s also home and that, in the end, is the biggest difference between IID and what looks to be the rest of the Colorado River community.
IID doesn’t believe the DCP can make the Salton Sea disappear.