In Southern California the states largest lake is drying up. The Salton Sea is in danger of becoming a dust bowl further emphasizing the long-term concern Stanislaus County has over its water rights that MID is looking to sell off for the next 60 years. The following story is from the Sacramento Bee.
Courts weighs scrapping huge California water pact
SAN Diego — A vanishing lake figures large in a court battle over how Southern California gets it water, a high-stakes dispute with consequences that could ripple throughout the western United States.
A California appeals court is considering whether to overturn a landmark 2003 agreement that created the nation’s largest farm-to-city water transfer and set new rules for dividing the state’s share of the Colorado River. A three-judge panel of the 3rd Appellate District in Sacramento will hear arguments Monday and is expected to rule within three months.
Farmers and environmentalists involved in the lawsuit argue the pact is deeply flawed, while California water agencies say it is critical to keeping an uneasy peace on the river. The court has given each side 45 minutes to make its case and asked lawyers to focus on whether the state of California violated its constitution by essentially writing a blank check to restore the shrinking Salton Sea.
California long used more of the Colorado River than it was granted under agreements with Arizona, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah, Wyoming and Mexico. Its overindulgence was never a big problem until Sunbelt cities like Phoenix witnessed explosive growth and other states clamored for their full share. Drought only exacerbated tensions.
The 2003 accord between California’s warring water agencies reins the state to its limit established 80 years earlier of 4.4 million acre-feet of water a year – enough to supply about 9 million homes. The centerpiece called for California’s Imperial Valley – a farming region of 175,000 residents that gets nearly 20 percent of the entire river – to sell water to San Diego.
In January 2010, Sacramento Superior Court Judge Roland Candee gutted the pact in a sweeping, 52-page decision that faulted the state for its open-ended commitment to the Salton Sea. California’s largest lake is more than 200 feet below sea level and relies on water that seeps down from nearby farms. The sale of water to San Diego, further threatens the lake’s future.
The judge ruled that a state law committing California to save the lake no matter the cost set an unacceptable precedent for the government to pledge money to other projects it couldn’t afford. The administration of former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger pegged the cost of saving the Salton Sea at a whopping $9 billion.
The state’s dire fiscal straits offer little hope for the lake, whose rapidly receding shores are layered with dead fish. Its waters – about one-third saltier