The San Diego County Water Authority has determined that its plans to dam the Pamo Valley for water storage will go forward irrespective of the findings by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the California Department of Fish and Game and the Environmental Protection Agency, that the public would not benefit from the proposal. The Water Authority is attacking concerned citizens and agencies as if the issues and alternatives raised by them are a threat to the authority's objectives.
The Water Authority must realize that two fundamental issues are at stake. Both economic and environmental concerns are the basis for the criticism the project has received to date. The $80-million cost of the project is such a public funding obligation that the benefits of the project need to be clearly demonstrated--as well as an impartial evaluation of alternatives that might provide equal water delivery to the region. The biological importance of the Pamo Valley is well known to those familiar with the habitat it provides for wildlife, including several endangered species. In addition to its biological resources, the valley has significant cultural and religious values for American Indians and is eligible for designation as a national historical district.
Beyond the issues raised thus far, there is still the matter of the public trust doctrine that the State Water Resources Control Board ignored when it extended the City of San Diego's water rights permit in June, 1984. The public trust doctrine, most recently applied in the Mono Lake decision, requires the consideration of environmental values when water diversions are made. As the Water Authority presses ever harder on the Corps of Engineers for final approval of the dam construction permit, it's important that all reasonable alternatives and the public trust issues be thoroughly considered.