Plan threatens to Safeguard Colorado River

A dispute between two major California water agencies is threatening to violate a hard-won agreement designed to safeguard a river which serves 40 million people in the U.S. West.

The Imperial Irrigation District on Tuesday sued a Los Angeles water controlled that consented to donate nearly all of California’s share of water to a reservoir that was important below a multistate drought contingency program.

The action came the identical day President Donald Trump approved national legislation to implement the program, which Utah, Arizona, California, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico and Wyoming spent years.

The arrangement is supposed to maintain the two largest reservoirs in the Colorado River of the country by falling so that they can’t deliver water or produce hydropower.

The Imperial Irrigation District stated it wouldn’t combine the drought strategy unless it secured $200 million to address health and environmental hazards in the Salton Sea, a briny lake northwest of Los Angeles.

The Metropolitan Water District, which serves Los Angeles composed Imperial out of this drought plan to prevent delays. It took which Imperial pledged to contribute to Lake Mead. Metropolitan’s participation could top 2 million acre-feet through 2026 when the drought plan expires. An acre-foot is enough water to serve one or two households per year.

Imperial’s lawsuit claims the Metropolitan Water District sidestepped an environmental legislation.

“Where the water source could come from and exactly what ecological impacts could lead to Metropolitan’s need to obtain such water to fulfill this large hole in its water supply are completely unknown,” Imperial composed in court documents filed in Los Angeles County Superior Court.

A California law requires state and local agencies to identify any potential environmental consequences of the activities when possible, and address them. Imperial is currently requesting the court to force Metropolitan to comply with that legislation, which might delay the drought plan from being implemented.

Metropolitan has stated storing water from Lake Mead under the drought strategy doesn’t require review since any changes to its facilities would be minor.

“We are frustrated that the Imperial Irrigation District is having litigation as a tool to obstruct execution of their drought contingency plan,” Metropolitan general director Jeff Kightlinger said in a statement Wednesday. “Parties around the Colorado River should collaborate in this time of crisis, not litigate.”

Imperial took the position the drought plan would be exempt by the environmental law. District spokesman Robert Schettler said Wednesday that came before Metropolitan strayed from a version that Imperial approved with stipulations.

The seven nations and U.S. Bureau of Reclamation have said the drought plan won’t affect the Salton Sea, however the Imperial Irrigation District isn’t convinced.

“The logic in going forwards without IID was that the DCP (drought contingency program ) couldn’t await the Salton Sea,” general manager Henry Martinez said Wednesday. “This legal battle is going to put that logic to the evaluation, and the focus will now be where it should have been around, the Salton Sea.”

Director of the Arizona Department of Water Resources, tom Buschatzke, said it is unclear what might occur if from enrolling final records for the drought 40, a California judge sides and prohibits the Metropolitan Water District.

“We certainly will have to get some conversations among the basin states and Reclamation about the best way to move forward and what we can or can’t do at that point in time,” he told reporters in Phoenix.

The nations had been expected to sign records next month based on a timeframe for Mexico also to begin next calendar year contributing water, Bureau of Reclamation spokeswoman Patti Aaron explained. She said the bureau is reviewing the lawsuit for its effects but declined to comment on it.

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Associated Press writer Jonathan J. Cooper in Phoenix contributed to this report.