Center for Biological Diversity

Protecting endangered species and wild places of western North America
and the Pacific through science, policy, education, and environmental law.

August 7, 2001
CONTACT: David Hogan, 619 523-1498
More Info.: Goldenstate Biodiversity Initiative


Thirteen conservation organizations have sent letters to members of the U.S. Congress expressing concerns over the urban growth-inducing environmental effects in San Diego County of the Imperial Valley - San Diego water transfer, and opposing Representative Duncan Hunter’s bill to facilitate the transfer. The water transfer will greatly expand urban sprawl, and the effects of this should be considered and mitigated in any water transfer-Salton Sea legislation, according to the letters.

In the letters to Senator Dianne Feinstein and Representatives Bob Filner and Susan Davis, the groups ask the lawmakers to allocate $60 million for acquisition of coastal San Diego County open space and endangered species habitat as mitigation for the water transfer. “If the water transfer must occur, it just makes sense that San Diego residents, and not just developers should benefit,” said David Hogan, Urban Wildlands Coordinator for the Center for Biological Diversity.

The groups also ask lawmakers to oppose a bill introduced on August 2nd by Representative Duncan Hunter and written by lawyers for the Imperial Valley Irrigation District. That bill would exempt the water transfer from the Endangered Species and National Environmental Policy acts, and allocate federal funding only for the Salton Sea to mitigate effects of the transfer.

Water transfer backers claim the exemptions are necessary to meet federal deadlines for implementation of California’s Colorado River Water Use Plan to reduce river water use over the next 15 years. “Water transfer backers waited until the last minute to do their environmental homework, and now they want Congress to write them an excuse,” said Hogan.

The Imperial Valley - San Diego water transfer will provide enough new, assured water ­ 200,000 acre-feet per year for 45 years ­ to support at least 1 million new residents in the San Diego County Water Authority service area, a 36% increase from the current County population of 2.8 million. Coastal San Diego County already suffers significant growing pains, including aging waste water infrastructure and rapidly diminishing open space and wildlife habitat. San Diego County has been called an epicenter of species extinction, and contains more federally listed threatened and endangered animals and plants than any other continental U.S. county. Without mitigation, the addition of this huge number of new residents and associated urbanization will greatly increase the harmful side effects of growth.


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