MVIDD weighs fallowing programs as part of state drought contingency plans

October 3, 2018

MOHAVE VALLEY — Mohave Valley Irrigation and Drainage District board members and Mohave County District 5 Sup. Lois Wakimoto exchanged sharp comments Tuesday during discussion on potential MVIDD participation in Drought Contingency Plan-based conservation programs.

“I have stated openly twice that what we want to see is that any (intentionally created surplus) that is created return to the area that it’s created,” Wakimoto said. “Meaning that any — not speaking of tribal ICS, but any non-tribal ICS — needs to return to the area that it is created and we still oppose transferring any water credits or anything else to Central Arizona.”

The Lower Basin Drought Contingency Plan is a plan developed by Arizona, California, Nevada and the United States to create additional contributions to Lake Mead from Arizona and Nevada, along with new contributions from California and the U.S. with incentives for additional storage in Lake Mead. Wakimoto serves on the Arizona Steering Committee, formed to discuss and recommend how to adopt and implement the LBDCP as a representative of the Mohave County Water Authority.

During Tuesday’s regularly scheduled meeting, MVIDD board members hosted discussion regarding the district’s potential participation in ICS programs.

ICS programs store water behind Hoover Dam to reduce the risk that Lake Mead will fall below shortage trigger levels. Bureau of Reclamation forecast models predict a more than 50 percent chance of a Tier 1 or greater shortage — which would be declared once water levels in Lake Mead fall to 1,075 feet of elevation — from 2020 to 2026.

MVIDD Manager Mark Clark told members he is drafting a template the district could use as a placeholder for future use in the DCP ICS program. The template doesn’t commit the district to any amount of water but it does give the district the ability to use a program should it choose to.

“I’ve had some discussions with Bureau of Reclamation and Arizona Department of Water Resources, and from my conversations with them they say we would be a prime candidate for additional ICS if we could put a program together,” Clark said. “Which for us would be a straight fallowing program — those are easiest for them to approve.”

Wakimoto addressed board members on the item, noting that fallowing programs are going to be inevitable for the DCP and ICS programs.

“I believe that conservation is going to come to fallowing and there will be certain stipulations so it’s a good thing for this district to be a placeholder,” Wakimoto said. “If you choose not to use your fallowing program you just don’t use it, you’re not committed to it.”

When questioned by MVIDD board member Vince Vasquez, Wakimoto said she was not saying fallowing is good.

“I didn’t say fallowing is good — I will not say fallowing is good,” Wakimoto said. “But fallowing is going to be part of the DCP program — I think you should do something as a placeholder because this will be the easiest time that you have to get this fallowing program approved.”

Vasquez objected to the distinctions Wakimoto made between tribal and non-tribal agricultural water.

“It’s a hard thing to look at and think it’s a good thing to somehow impair or restrict non-Indian agricultural supplies over tribal supplies and I just don’t know the real reason,” Vasquez said.

Arizona Department of Water Resources and Central Arizona Project make the distinction between tribal and non-tribal water because of the different treaties whereby the tribes get their water, Wakimoto said.

MVIDD Board Chairman Charles “Chip” Sherrill pointed out farmers have historically fallowed ground during times of shortage.

“Farming established that water, farming has used that water and farming is the only place you’re going to be able to take care of shortage, take care of DCP program or anything else,” Sherrill said.

Members will see a version of the template at a future meeting, Clark said.

Sherrill said if the district could be a part of the program and help raise the elevation of the water in Lake Mead it could delay the declaration of a water shortage.

“If we can avoid that shortage it would be a great thing for everybody up and down the system and all the basin states for that matter,” he said.

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