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Clark Dry Lake Con

Digger - July 3, 2008

The availability of federal stimulus funds has perverted the process of selecting projects to deal with the Borrego Valley's looming water shortages and resulted in placing the proposed Clark Dry Lake project (CDL) at the head of the queue despite its manifest shortcomings.

The Borrego Water District's (BWD) Integrated Water Resources Management Plan (IWRMP), an expensive but flawed document produced by a consultant with a serious conflict of interest, purports to rank-order various solutions for Borrego's increasingly serious water problem.

One partial solution considered in the IWRMP is importing water from Clark Dry Lake which would require expensive new infrastructure. BWD recently allocated more than $164,000 ratepayer dollars to conduct preliminary studies for the Clark Dry Lake basin; but none of these furthers knowledge of the hydrology of the basin - which is largely an unknown.

The IWRMP points out that "The basin has produced limited amounts of water..." but "water production... is minimal" and "Subsurface data...is sketchy at best." Moreover, "local projects that depend on surface runoff [e.g., CDL] are also considered low reliability because of the infrequency of signification (sic) rainfall and runoff." Thus the IWRMP calls for "an initial production test well ... to assess the hydrologic and water quality aspects of the basin" before proceeding.

In addition to acknowledging significant unknowns, there are a number of known problems with CDL called out in the IWRMP; so it is rated poorly on four of the six criteria used to rank various alternatives and gets only a middling score on a fifth.

Bedazzled by the conjuring image of ten million stimulus dollars, however, the worthies at BWD narrowly decided to ignore the IWRMP, forego due diligence, and recklessly pursue CDL despite numerous contra-indicators because it was the one project they might cobble together and fob off as "shovel-ready" in time to get a federal dole. That is nothing but a disingenuous, grand-stand play calculated to take advantage of our nation's economic plight to fund what could very well be a pipeline to nowhere - and that is perverse.

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