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Salton Sea is focus of IID’s legal challenge to Drought Contingency Plan
On the same day President Trump signed the Drought Contingency Plan into law, Imperial Irrigation District filed a petition in Los Angeles Superior Court alleging violations of the California Environmental Quality Act by the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California.
The petition calls on the court to suspend approvals and actions related to the Lower Basin Drought Contingency Plan until such time that an appropriate CEQA analysis and process has been completed.
“The logic in going forward without IID was that the DCP couldn’t wait for the Salton Sea,” said Henry Martinez, IID general manager. “This legal challenge is going to put that logic to the test and the focus will now be where it should have been all along – at the Salton Sea.”
IID’s petition alleges that MWD violated CEQA principles by committing to enter into agreements, on behalf of itself and all other California contractors, which will require MWD to forgo diverting up to hundreds of thousands of acre-feet of water annually from the Colorado River without considering how it will make up the shortfall.
“Metropolitan engaged in a prejudicial abuse of discretion and failed to proceed in the manner required by law,” wrongly determining that the DCP approvals were exempt from environmental laws, the suit continues.
CEQA is a statute that requires state and local agencies to identify the significant environmental impacts of their actions and to avoid or mitigate those impacts, if feasible.
Without IID’s participation, the Bureau of Reclamation and state water officials, including California, signed the DCP on March 19.
While IID worked to be a partner in the DCP process, the district objected, citing environmental issues posed at the Salton Sea and lack of federal funding commitments for the state’s 10-year Salton Sea Management Plan.
The district maintains that the Salton Sea is an integral part of the Colorado River system and its decline presents a severe public health and environmental crisis for the Imperial and Coachella valleys and the state.
IID has pointed out that MWD’s obligation to the river, under this DCP, could be over 2 million acre-feet.
“As long as IID was part of the DCP, the Salton Sea would have been insulated from impacts because IID could have protected it,” said IID board president Erik Ortega. “But under this DCP, particularly now that MWD is calling the shots for California and acting on behalf of the rest of the Colorado River, the Salton Sea is truly on its own. That’s why IID is acting to preserve its rights – and the Salton Sea’s future – by filing this CEQA challenge.”