From The Palm Springs Desert Sun (Mark Olalde):
The Imperial Irrigation District has filed its opening brief in a case against the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California that it launched last year in an attempt to halt the implementation of the Lower Basin Drought Contingency Plan for the Colorado River. IID wants to see it paused until the Salton Sea is also considered.
The two behemoths in the world of Western water are locking horns in court over the plan, which is an agreement made between California, Nevada and Arizona to keep more water in Lake Mead, the man-made lake created by the Hoover Dam. Nearly 40 million people rely on water from the Colorado River system, but growing demand across the West and a warming climate are threatening the important waterway…
In its 38-page brief filed on July 8, IID attorneys argue that Metropolitan’s approval of the Drought Contingency Plan in March 2019 was improper because it did not include an environmental analysis conducted under the California Environmental Quality Act. IID asked the court to stop Metropolitan from acting on its plan until a CEQA review had been completed…
In a statement sent to The Desert Sun, Metropolitan General Manager Jeffrey Kightlinger said the the two water agencies already spoke about the Salton Sea when the Drought Contingency Plan was created.
“During that negotiation, we worked closely with IID to ensure that the agreement has no adverse impacts on the Salton Sea, as the water contributions made to Lake Mead will not affect the amount of water flowing into the sea,” Kightlinger said.
But in its court filing, IID questioned the math underpinning Metropolitan’s contribution to the Drought Contingency Plan, saying it “relied on statistical slight-of-hand” that needed to be studied further.
Between amendments to the plan in December 2018 and March 2019, Metropolitan said it would take over what had originally been IID’s responsibility to keep 250,000 acre feet of water in Lake Mead over the first two years when it eventually fell to the level that would trigger the Drought Contingency Plan. This was a “sudden and abrupt departure” from earlier decisions and cut IID out from the negotiations, the rural water agency alleged in its court filings…
The Coachella Valley Water District, the Palo Verde Irrigation District in Blythe and the city of Needles are also listed as interested parties on the brief, as they are the other three agencies within California that have rights to divert water from the Colorado River.
Ortega said Metropolitan has until September 25 to file its response.