Colorado River deal closer

The latest news from the state Department of Water Resources water news service on the Colorado River deal. What is unclear from the story is what changed the position of Metropolitan Water District of Southern California to allow the parties to believe they have a deal. But, I doubt it is the fault of the AP reporter. Much of this story is probably still below the surface. What is clear from reports, oral and written, from around Northern California, is that Metropolitan is making small deals with many water agencies up here.   Four water agencies reach framework on Colorado River deal Associated Press - 9/3/03 By Seth Hettena, staff writerSAN DIEGO - Four Southern California water agencies have tentatively agreed on a framework for a long-awaited pact to share the waters of the Colorado River, a key lawmaker said Wednesday.A series of bills that would clear the way for the deal were being hurriedly drafted in Sacramento on Wednesday and House and Senate lawmakers planned to rush them through both chambers before the Legislature adjourns for the year next week."It looks like it's coming together," said Joe Canciamilla, a Pittsburg Democrat who chairs the Assembly Committee on Water, Parks and Wildlife.Only a few weeks ago, Canciamilla announced his intention to draft legislation intended to punish the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, the state's largest urban water agency, for holding up the water deal sought by the Bush administration and the six Western states that share the Colorado.The multi-generation deal is aimed at easing California's overdependence on the river so other thirsty Western states can claim their full share. The heart of the deal involves the transfer to San Diego County of up to 65 million gallons a year from farmers in the Imperial Valley, the state's biggest user of Colorado River water.Hopes for a deal seemed dim two weeks ago when San Diego, Imperial and the Coachella Valley Water District said they would part ways with Metropolitan and reach an agreement among themselves.Assistant Interior Secretary Bennett Raley, the Bush administration's point man on Western water issues, flew to Sacramento and told them the idea wouldn't fly. Raley urged the parties to continue to work through their differences, leading to Wednesday's agreement.Canciamilla remained cautiously optimistic, however, noting that agreements reached by the four agencies have fallen apart several times in the past. He said he expected to hear from the managers and board chairmen of all four agencies about whether they were committed to the latest version of the deal."It wouldn't surprise me to have it all fall apart at the 11th hour and 59th minute," he said.That's what happened last year, when California failed to met a Dec. 31, 2002, deadline set by the Interior Department. In response, Interior Secretary Gale Norton punished the state by cutting California's draw from the river this year by 15 percent. The state, and specifically Metropolitan, will be able to draw the additional water until 2016 if a deal is approved.Canciamilla said only a few "technical points" needed to be wrapped up Wednesday. One involved using $235 million from the state budget to install a concrete lining on the All-American Canal that carries Colorado River water to the Imperial Valley. Lining the earthen canal would capture an additional 32.5 million gallons each year.The parties were trying to decide who would take the water and assume responsibility for lining the canal, Canciamilla said.Published: Wednesday, September 3, 2003 13:18 PDT#