California water agencies resolve Colorado River dispute

Sep 20, 2021, 3:11 PM | Updated: 4:33 pm

Two major California water agencies have settled a lawsuit that once threatened to derail a multi-state agreement to protect a river that serves millions of people in the U.S. West amid gripping drought.

The Imperial Irrigation District, the largest single recipient of Colorado River water, sued the Metropolitan Water District twice in the past two years. The agencies announced Monday they have reached a settlement that resolves both lawsuits.

Under the agreement, Imperial can store water in Lake Mead on the Arizona-Nevada border under Metropolitan’s account. Imperial will contribute water under a regional drought contingency plan if California is called on to help stave off further water cuts.

Imperial spokesman Antonio Ortega said the agency is hopeful that its partners in California and across the Colorado River basin recognize the opportunities to work together. The river serves 40 million people in Colorado, Wyoming, Utah, New Mexico, Arizona, California, Nevada and Mexico.

“But also,” he said, “to make sure those environmental challenges like the ones we face every day here at the Salton Sea will be a part of the discussion to make sure it’s being addressed, and IID’s concerns are not ignored.”

Imperial sued Metropolitan, alleging the water agency that serves Los Angeles violated a state environmental law when it sidestepped Imperial in the drought contingency talks. The Los Angeles County Superior Court ruled against Imperial, which appealed to the California Court of Appeals earlier this year.

Another complaint filed in 2020 accused Metropolitan of breaching a contract related to storing Colorado River water in Lake Mead. Metropolitan denied the allegations. A trial was scheduled for April 2022.

Those cases became moot with the agreement signed last week that also outlines regular talks between the agencies to respond to drought, according to court documents. Metropolitan said it will support Imperial’s efforts to restore the Salton Sea and to secure more funding for the massive, briny lake southeast of Los Angeles.

Bill Hasencamp, Colorado River resources manager for Metropolitan, said Monday that Imperial’s ability to store water under a sub account provides more flexibility in retrieving the water. But the capacity is less than what Imperial would have received under the drought contingency plan, and Imperial’s voluntary contributions won’t be as high either, he said.

The agreement marks the end of legal fights and a return to working together, he said. Already, water users in the West are talking about what will replace an existing set of guidelines for the Colorado River and the overlapping drought contingency plan that expire in 2026.

Imperial has rights to more than one-third of the water allocated to the three states in the river’s lower basin and Mexico.

“They have to be at the table,” Hasencamp said. “They have to be a party.”

Seven Western states finalized the drought plan in 2019 to keep the water levels at Lake Mead and Lake Powell — upstream on the Arizona-Utah border — from dropping substantially. Still, the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation declared the first-ever shortage in water supply for 2022 that will impact Arizona, Nevada and Mexico.

The Imperial Irrigation District essentially was written out of California’s part of the drought plan when Metropolitan pledged to contribute most of the state’s voluntary cuts to avoid delays in implementing the plan. Imperial’s support hinged on securing $200 million in federal funding to address environmental and health hazards at the Salton Sea, which it did not receive.

The inland sea formed in 1905 after the Colorado River breached a dike and flooded a basin has been shrinking, exposing a lakebed with microscopic wind-blown dust that contributes to poor air quality and asthma.

The state of California has budgeted an additional $40 million for restoration efforts at the Salton Sea, but it’s not enough, Ortega said.

“We need additional support, and things seem to be moving in that direction,” Ortega said. “We would hope that it would move quicker.”

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

AP

A man looks out from an apartment destroyed after Russian shelling in Nikopol, Ukraine, Monday, Aug...
Associated Press

2 injured in fire at ammunition storage site on Crimea

KYIV, Ukraine (AP) — A fire at an ammunition storage site on Crimea left two people injured on Tuesday, local officials said, coming a week after a series of explosions at an air base on the peninsula that was annexed from Ukraine by Russia. The blaze and blasts rattled the village of Mayskoye in the […]
17 minutes ago
FILE - Ohio State quarterback C.J. Stroud throws during the first half in the Rose Bowl NCAA colleg...
Associated Press

AP Top 25 Reality Check: Pouring caution on that optimism

Low expectations rarely disappoint. That’s not to say your favorite team will fail to live up to the promise that comes with landing a spot in The Associated Press preseason Top 25 college football poll presented by Regions Bank that was released Monday. But numbers suggest it is best to sprinkle a healthy amount of […]
17 minutes ago
FILE — Giorgia Meloni holds an Italian flag as she addresses a rally in Rome, Saturday, Oct. 19, ...
Associated Press

Far-right Italian leader Meloni rides popular wave in polls

ROME (AP) — With a message that blends Christianity, motherhood and patriotism, Giorgia Meloni is riding a wave of popularity that next month could see her become Italy’s first female prime minister and its first far-right leader since World War II. Even though her Brothers of Italy party has neo-fascist roots, Meloni has sought to […]
1 day ago
Former Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak, center, wearing a face mask arrives at Court of Appeal...
Associated Press

Top Malaysian court orders ex-PM Najib to begin final appeal

PUTRAJAYA, Malaysia (AP) — Malaysia’s top court ordered former Prime Minister Najib Razak to begin his final appeal Tuesday after rejecting his request to throw out his graft conviction and 12-year sentence over potential judicial bias. Najib has sought to introduce new evidence that would spark a retrial on grounds that the high court judge […]
1 day ago
FILE - A security officer stands next to the ship Navi-Star which sits full of grain since Russia's...
Associated Press

Ukraine’s Black Sea deal also helps Russian farmers, economy

With much fanfare, ship after ship loaded with grain has sailed from Ukraine after being stuck in the country’s Black Sea ports for nearly six months. More quietly, a parallel wartime deal met Moscow’s demands to clear the way for its wheat to get to the world, too, boosting an industry vital to Russia’s economy […]
1 day ago
The Lost Mural hangs in the entryway of Ohavi Zedek Synagogue, in Burlington, Vt., July 29, 2022. T...
Associated Press

Long-hidden synagogue mural gets rehabbed, relocated

BURLINGTON, Vt. (AP) — A mural that was painted in a Vermont synagogue more than 100 years ago by a Lithuanian immigrant — and hidden behind a wall for years– has been termed a rare piece of art and has been painstakingly moved and restored. The large colorful triptych painted by sign painter Ben Zion […]
1 day ago

Sponsored Articles

...
Sanderson Ford

Don’t let rising fuel prices stop you from traveling Arizona this summer

There's no better time to get out on the open road and see what the beautiful state of Arizona has to offer. But if the cost of gas is putting a cloud over your summer vacation plans, let Sanderson Ford help with their wide-range selection of electric vehicles.
...
Mayo Clinic Orthopedics and Sports Medicine

Why your student-athlete’s physical should be conducted by a sports medicine specialist

Dr. Anastasi from Mayo Clinic Orthopedics and Sports Medicine in Tempe answers some of the most common questions.
(Courtesy Condor)...
Condor Airlines

Condor Airlines shows passion for destinations from Sky Harbor with new-look aircraft

Condor Airlines brings passion to each flight and connects people to their dream destinations throughout the world.
California water agencies resolve Colorado River dispute