Weighing an outpouring of
support for him to run again with what he called “reckless” and “dangerous”
ideas being put forth by at least one candidate vying for his seat, Kuhn said he
felt like he must seek another term.
Those ideas he said he’s
referring to are talk about attempting to “do away” with the current water
transfer between the district and the San Diego County Water Authority that was
approved in 2003, and closing the door on any talk of more transfers. Kuhn
would not name the candidate to which he was referring.
“If we did away with the
water transfer, it would affect everyone,” Kuhn said during an interview Dec.
9. “It’s an absolutely reckless thing to say.”
Although an IID board majority
would be needed to pass such measures–and Kuhn said he believes that would
never happen–he added a candidate simply espousing those ideas to a larger
audience in the Colorado River basin would do “harm” and potentially create
“discontent” among other river users the district does not need.
He said he believes such
talk could draw unnecessary eyes to the district’s use of water at a time when
outside entities still question IID’s longstanding position as among the senior
water-rights holders on the river.
“It’s an alarming message
and I could not stand idly by with so many people asking me to reconsider” my
candidacy, Kuhn said, adding in recent weeks he has had more than 200 personal,
phone and email contacts with constituents asking him to run again.
Candidates who have filed
to run for Kuhn’s seat are El Centro residents John Brooks “J.B.” Hamby, Ryan
Childers and Dilda McFadden. While no record of any of them was found saying
the IID-San Diego County water transfer should be done away with, Hamby’s
advertising to date has often emphasized protecting water rights.
When contacted Dec. 9
concerning his position on the current water transfer and being told of Kuhn’s
implications, Hamby said previous media reports have taken some of his positions out of context or
oversimplified them and have required him to issue clarifications.
Hamby added Dec. 9 that
while he does think the water transfer has been economically and ecologically
“devastating” to the Imperial Valley, he understands the 16-year-old transfer
is a binding, legal contract. However, he reiterated that if elected to the board
he would propose any future considerations of water transfers be subject to
two-thirds public approval by the county’s electorate.
Kuhn maintained Dec. 9
even though the water transfer was an unpopular decision, it has allowed the
district to help support IID water department operations through $125 million a
year in annual revenue. It has also allowed the district to basically subsidize
the cost of water from $40 an acre-foot to what is now $20 an acre-foot for both
agricultural users and cities that buy untreated water from the district.
“If we don’t use all the
water we have (through this transfer), it goes to Metropolitan Water District
(of Los Angeles) for free. … It’s an underrun if we don’t use it all, and if
it’s an overrun, we have to pay it back,” Kuhn said.
Hamby added Dec. 9 that Kuhn’s position on water in the Valley seems to be “conserve, move and monetize,” while his own diametrically opposed view is “preserve, develop and diversify.”
The 68-year-old Kuhn served
on the board from 1996-2004 before losing his re-election bid. He ran again and
was elected to a third term in November 2012 and a fourth in 2016. His current
term expires in December 2020.