Borrego Sun - Since 1949

By J.David Garmon MD
President Tubb Canyon Desert Conservancy 

Public Presentation for Regional Conveyance System Set

 

Last updated 5/6/2021 at 9:38am



On May 6, 2021 at 4:30 p.m. the Borrego Springs Community Sponsor Group will host a public presentation on the San Diego County Water Authority’s (CWA) proposed Regional Conveyance System. (RCS). The meeting will be held via Zoom. Community members who wish to attend this meeting should email Sponsor Group Chair Rebecca Falk at rebfalk7@gmail.com and request to be included on the Sponsor Group Agenda Email List.

If you would like to speak at this meeting, you must email Vice-Chair Bonnie Petrach at bonniepetrach@ymail.com to be placed on the list of speakers. Representatives from the CWA will present their plan to bring one of the largest public works projects in the history of San Diego County through the Anza-Borrego Desert State Park and the community of Borrego Springs.

Currently the CWA pays the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California (MWD) for the use of MWD pipes to transport CWA’s allocation of Colorado River water to San Diego. The proposed RCS would provide the CWA with a second route for transporting its Colorado River water to San Diego; however, CWA would own this proposed second route known as the RCS.

The CWA estimates it would take 10 years to plan the RCS, meet regulatory requirements, and acquire the land. They estimate it would take an additional 15 years to build.

The main components of the proposed RCS include:

1) a trench 38 miles long, 35 feet wide, and 20 feet deep beginning near the Salton Sea and running through the Park and into Borrego Springs, 2) a tunnel 47 miles long and 14 feet in diameter running from one of our canyons – Palm, Tubb, Glorietta – to a CWA facility near Escondido, 3) a 10 acre pumping station near the entrance to the tunnel that would house four 12,500 horsepower pumps, and 4) 230 kV powerlines running through the Park and community to power the pumps.

Proponents of the project within the CWA have intermittently suggested Borrego could benefit from the RCS, as the RCS could be sized to bring 20,000 acre-feet of Colorado River water to Borrego. However, at public meetings attended by members of the Imperial Irrigation District who zealously guard their remaining water, these same CWA representatives have pledged the RCS would be built only large enough to transport CWA’s 280,000 acre-feet allotment of Colorado River water.

Despite the shifting positions of CWA on a number of issues such as the preferred route for the RCS and CWA’s desire to store water in the Borrego Basin, they have been clear on one point: if Borrego were to get water via the RCS, it would not be for free. Borrego would have to buy it from a willing third party to the tune of potentially millions of dollars per year. Colorado River water doesn’t come cheap with MWD, CWA, and many others having competed for decades for such rights.

Additionally, water from near the end of the Colorado River is not potable without extensive (and expensive) treatment due to salinity and agricultural runoff. The treatment required to bring the water to potable standards would increase the cost of Colorado River water beyond just the acquisition price.

As previously described in these pages (“Opposition Grows to RCS,” The Borrego Sun, April 15, 2021), there is growing opposition to the proposed RCS. The City of San Diego has raised the issue of the estimated $5 billion cost to rate payors. The majority of the Member Agencies that compose the CWA have concluded the RCS would be more expensive than simply negotiating a new contract with MWD for the continued use of MWD pipes. Environmentalists on both sides of the Peninsular Mountain Range have raised the alarm about the devastation this industrial project would have on the back country, the desert, wilderness habitat, and San Diego’s greenhouse gas emissions.

The Tubb Canyon Desert Conservancy (TCDC) views the proposed RCS as an existential threat to the future of the Park and the community.

The CWA’s proposal describes an industrial infrastructure and construction process that would irreparably damage the integrity of the Park, would forever degrade the character of the Borrego Springs, and would cripple Borrego’s growing ecotourism economy. TCDC has enumerated its objections to this project in public comment letters and in public comments to the CWA Board.

TCDC urges all members of the community who have an interest or concern regarding the RCS to attend this important public meeting. This is the time to make your voice heard!

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