A dispute between two major California water agencies is threatening to derail a hard-won agreement designed to protect a river that serves 40 million people in the U. S. West.
The Imperial Irrigation District, the largest single recipient of Colorado River water, on Tuesday sued a Los Angeles water utility that agreed to contribute most of Californias share of water to a key reservoir under a multistate drought contingency plan.
The action came the same day President Donald Trump approved federal legislation to implement the plan, which Arizona, California, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah and Wyoming spent years negotiating.
The agreement is meant to keep the countrys two largest reservoirs on the Colorado River from dropping so low they cannot deliver water or produce hydropower amid prolonged drought and climate change.
The Imperial Irrigation District said it wouldnt join the drought plan unless it secured 200 million in federal funding to address health and environmental hazards at the Salton Sea, a massive, briny lake southeast of Los Angeles.
The Metropolitan Water District, which serves Los Angeles, essentially wrote Imperial out of the drought plan to prevent delays in implementing it. It took on the amount of water that Imperial pledged to contribute to Lake Mead. With that, Metropolitans contribution could top 2 million acre-feet through 2026 when the drought plan expires. An acre-foot is enough water to serve one to two average households a year.
Imperials lawsuit claims the Metropolitan Water District sidestepped an environmental law.
Where the water supply would come from and what environmental impacts could result from Metropolitans need to acquire such water to fill this sizable hole in its water supply are entirely unknown, Imperial wrote in court documents filed in Los Angeles County Superior Court.
A California law requires state and local agencies to identify any potential environmental effects of their actions and address them if possible. Imperial is asking the court to force Metropolitan to comply with that law, which could delay the larger drought plan from being implemented.
Metropolitan has said storing water in Lake Mead under the drought plan doesnt require review under the California Environmental Quality Act because any changes to its facilities would be minor.
We are disappointed that the Imperial Irrigation District is using litigation as a tool to block implementation of the drought contingency plan, Metropolitan general manager Jeff Kightlinger said in a statement Wednesday. Parties on the Colorado River need to collaborate during this time of crisis, not litigate.
Imperial took the stance in December that the drought program would be exempt from the environment law. Region spokesman Robert Schettler stated Wednesday that will came just before Metropolitan strayed from a edition that Imperial approved along with stipulations.
The particular seven claims and Oughout. S. Agency of Reclamation have stated the drought plan will not affect the Salton Sea, however the Imperial Water sources District isnt convinced.
The particular logic within going forward with out IID is that the DCP (drought backup plan) couldnt wait for the particular Salton Ocean, general supervisor Henry Martinez said Wed. This lawful challenge will probably put that will logic towards the test, as well as the focus will be exactly where it should were all together, the Salton Sea.
Mary Buschatzke, movie director of the Az Department associated with Water Assets, said the unclear exactly what would happen in case a California assess sides along with Imperial plus prohibits the particular Metropolitan Drinking water District through signing last documents for your drought program.
We will certainly have to have a few conversations one of the basin declares and Reclamation on how to move ahead and what we are able to or cannot do when this occurs in time, he or she told reporters in Phoenix, az.
The claims were likely to sign last documents the following month in line with the timeframe designed for Mexico and also to begin adding water the coming year, Bureau associated with Reclamation spokeswoman Patti Aaron said. The girl said the particular agency will be reviewing the particular lawsuit for the potential results but dropped to discuss it.
Related Press article writer Jonathan L. Cooper within Phoenix added to this survey.