IID’s New Coachella Valley Energy Commission Tackles Energy-Water Gap


Seeking to avoid legislation that would force Riverside County representation on its board of directors, the Imperial Irrigation District called the first meeting of its new Coachella Valley Energy Commission on Thursday.

Undera long-term agreement with the Coachella Valley Water District, IID provides electricity to 100,000 residents of Coachella Valley. This pact expires in 2033 and the overarching goal of the new commission is to find a way forward for these clients.

“As we approach the end of a 99 year agreement … we must work together and adapt to changing circumstances and plan for a mutually beneficial future,” said IID Board of Directors Vice-President JB Hamby, who chairs the new committee. “It’s not just about overcoming the perceived differences between Coachella and Imperial Valleys, but also within the Coachella Valley. Our task is to overcome geography, wealth, origins and past differences as we plan. our common future. “

Coachella Valley managers and customers worry about IID’s aging or inadequate infrastructure to handle growth, and perhaps higher costs for the consumer to pay for new equipment. While some praised Hamby for its collaborative approach and long-term planning, other commission members and others not included, including CVWD and community groups in East Coachella Valley, expressed some reviews.

Activists and residents of Mecca, Thermal, Coachella, North Shore and Indio said they often experience more frequent and longer outages than wealthier communities and neighborhoods, and deserve upgrades to critical infrastructure and better representation.

“The power grid in eastern Coachella Valley and rural communities in general has failed to provide reliable energy service to its customers. Extreme weather events have become more frequent, often exacerbated by climate change, “leading to transmission line failures and other misfortunes, 42 community members wrote in a letter to the IID board of directors. “Residents go days without electricity, losing food, access to essential medical equipment and online education.”

They also said that the creation of the commission was rushed and that a Spanish-speaking translator should be employed at the meetings.

“So far, decisions regarding the development of this space have been made very quickly with minimal commitment,” said Mariela Loera, policy advocate with the Leadership Council for Justice and Accountability. “In the future, we should, alongside other residents, actively participate in future actions and decision-making processes. “

Salton City resident Lavon Jaksch, appointed to represent the Imperial Northern County and other communities along the Salton Sea, said in Spanish and English that they were also used to being a “child by step” “from IID and other officials, and pledged to stand up for all small rural communities.

La Quinta Mayor Linda Evans, who is also on the new commission, said a similar advisory group set up by IID years ago, called the Energy Consumers Advisory Committee, “really didn’t gave no serious input. We didn’t feel our recommendations were taken seriously … I want to be engaged and open, but I’ll also be skeptical of this group because we don’t haven’t seen openness and collaboration from IID in the past. “

This commission will also be advisory only and will not have a vote on the IID board, as some lawmakers and other officials have requested. Hamby said it differs from the other energy advisory committee because at the request of groups in the region it has been reduced to just two members of the IID board and, with the exception of of Jaksch, members of the Coachella Valley region, and focuses on the needs of this service area.

Member of the State Assembly Chad Mayes is pictured outside his office in Rancho Mirage, Calif., Thursday, January 23, 2020.

Coachella Valley households and businesses make up 60% of IID’s energy customer base, but its board of directors is made up entirely of Imperial County representatives – a situation MP Chad Mayes, I-Rancho Mirage, and others consider it unfair.

Mayes’ legislation, AB 1021, would require the IID’s board of directors to increase from five to six members, with the new position appointed by the fourth district supervisor of Riverside County, currently V. Manuel Perez. Among the supporters of AB 1021 is MP Eduardo Garcia, D-Coachella, whose district covers all of Imperial County and part of the Coachella Valley.

IID officials have always noted that they provide much cheaper power than the for-profit Southern California Edison, which serves other parts of the Coachella Valley, and would like to continue to do so. But the council’s primary goal is to protect its superior rights to the Colorado River water, they say.

IID provides water in Imperial County but not in Coachella Valley, and it opposes adding Riverside County representation to its board of directors because that would give it its say to say about Imperial County’s water problems. He threatened to consider cutting service to his Coachella Valley customers in the future if such a law was passed. But Hamby, Mayes and others are also hoping that an amicable compromise can be found.

Power lines fell in Indio, California on March 15, 2021 due to high winds.

Hamby said he doesn’t see the commission as the answer, but as a forum for a select group to consider “a ton of options” on how to ensure better representation for Coachella Valley customers, both that water rights are not affected.

“By working together, we can accomplish a lot more than disagreeing,” he said.

Mayes did not respond to a request for comment on the new commission. But Coachella Mayor Steve Hernandez said Mayes’ legislation was “the elephant in the room” that caused the IID to start taking Coachella Valley concerns seriously.

“It’s not about water, it’s about providing energy for our residents and the future of the Coachella Valley,” he repeatedly stressed at the meeting, noting that he was concerned about adequate and affordable energy both for current customers and for the city’s growth plans.

Other members to date include IID Board Chairman James Hanks, Indio Mayor Elaine Holmes, Riverside County activist Gloria Fernandez, Joseph Mirelez of the Torres Indians Martinez Cahuilla of the Desert and, representing Cove Communities Joint Powers Authority Indian Wells Mayor Richard Balloco, though Ranco Mirage’s Pro Tem Mayor Charles Townsend replaced him on Thursday.

Townsend praised Hamby and the commission’s work.

“I applaud IID for taking the time to listen to everyone, and I hope that everything that comes out in the next few years will be considered. You are here to work for Coachella Valley, that is the key. . “

Three extraordinary members will also be appointed. Meetings will be held on the first Thursday of each month at hubs in Coachella Valley.

Janet Wilson is a senior environmental reporter for The Desert Sun and writes USA Today’s Climate Point newsletter. She can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter @ janetwilson66

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