What Would Lloyd Allen Do?

With the Colorado River in crisis, long-term and newly found friends in the Imperial Valley have reached out to Hydrowonk seeking advice and counsel.  After two decades of drawing down water storage in Lake Powell and Lake Mead, the Bureau of Reclamation and junior water right holders are banging on the door of the Imperial Valley demanding a bail out because, evidently, they are “too big to fail.” 

Channeling Elon Musk, Hydrowonk keeps it short and sweet.  First, honor and protect the legacy of the Imperial Valley’s pioneers who literally dug your community out of the dirt with their own bare hands.  Second, channel the wisdom of Lloyd Allen.   

What does Hydrowonk know about the legacy of the Imperial Valley?  Isn’t he a city slicker?  Guilty.   

But, on February 22, 1926, Hydrowonk’s dad was borne in El Centro.  Dad grew up in Holtville until the Great Depression drove him and his folks out of the Valley, ultimately to Fresno.  “Granny Belle” (grade school education out of Colorado) proudly educated Hydrowonk about life in the Imperial Valley and later Westlands.  Hydrowonk learned a thing or two before Inglewood junior high.   

Why does Hydrowonk have the audacity to talk about Lloyd Allen.  Because I knew the man since the early 1990s until his death on May 28, 2006.  See postscript below for my remarks at Lloyd’s memorial service held at 10:00 am on Saturday, June 3, 2006 in the Erickson Gymnasium at the Calipatria High School.   

Listening to Lloyd 

Hydrowonk imagines Lloyd preparing for a meeting with the Bureau of Reclamation.  As you listen to Lloyd, think about David Hayes’ remarks I read at Lloyd’s memorial service.   

Lloyd says: 

“IID is committed to find reasonable terms for the Imperial Valley to enter into a new agreement with the Bureau of Reclamation to conserve an additional 250,000 acre-feet per year for four years (2023-2026).  This objective can be achieved by placing the current negotiations in the context of IID’s earlier agreement with the San Diego County Water Authority, the Quantification Settlement Agreement, and related agreements. 

IID took decisive actions to implement California’s 4.4 Plan initiated by the Clinton Administration and supported by the other Colorado River Basin states.  IID entered into a series of agreements that currently makes available about 500,000 acre-feet per year of conserved water to the following parties: 

  • San Diego: 200,000 acre-feet by on-farm and system conservation and 77,000 acre-feet from the lining of the All American and Coachella Canals 
  • San Luis Rey Settlement Parties: 16,000 acre-feet from the lining of the All American and Coachella Canals 
  • MWD: 105,000 acre-feet from the extension of a 1988 agreement originally scheduled to terminate in 35 years (2023) 
  • Coachella: up to 100,000 acre-feet per year 

In reaching these agreements, IID addressed many issues with various parties including:   

  • Market-based pricing for conserved water with San Diego including an extra premium when there is less than 7.5 million acre-feet of Colorado River water in the Lower Basin 
  • Economic mitigation to address the socio-economic impact of land fallowing 
  • Environmental mitigation for the Salton Sea and financial contributions from IID, San Diego and Coachella to the Department of Water Resources for long-term planning for addressing the Salton Sea 

IID entered into these agreements only after extensive local public input prior to board approval.   

The current negotiation for additional water conservation by IID can build upon this foundation.   

Once again, IID’s commitment to conserve 250,000 acre-feet per year for four years is the cornerstone of California’s proposed plan for addressing the current emergency on the Colorado River.  The proposed land fallowing by Palo Verde Irrigation District and Bard uses pre-existing agreements with the Metropolitan Water District.  Coachella’s proposed reduced use of Colorado River water involves suspension of groundwater recharge programs.   

In contrast, IID must secure voluntary participation by landowners to participate in a new IID water conservation agreement with Reclamation, which will require harmonization of IID’s existing on farm program for its agreement with the San Diego County Water Authority.   

IID stands ready to do the heavy lifting.  Having said that, we are hearing from landowners clear concerns that must be addressed for a successful new agreement: 

  1. Recognize the priority and scale of IID’s water rights, including all junior water right owners throughout the Colorado River Basin recognizing IID’s senior priority and any water conserved under the new agreement in no way diminishes IID’s senior priority.   
  2. Reclamation’s recognition of evaporation and system losses must follow the priority system and be consistent with Reclamation’s water delivery contract with IID
         a. Evaporation: reduces the volume of Colorado River water available for delivery under the priority system
         b. System Losses: quantification of IID’s Priority 3a water right at 3.1 million acre-feet is at Imperial Dam and IID’s Present Perfected Water Rights of 2.6 million acre-feet in Arizona v. California is based on water use in the Imperial Valley
  3. Reclamation is responsible for any environmental mitigation obligations and liability for reducing the flow of the Colorado River from Lake Mead to Imperial Dam.  
  4. Assure that new water conservation exclusively addresses the risks created by the long-term drawdown of water storage at Lake Powell and Lake Mead, rather than limiting the curtailment of Colorado River water available to junior water rights owners under Tier 3 of the 2019 Drought Contingency Plan.   
  5. Assure that the economic arrangements for IID are reasonable within the current context and the precedent set by IID’s agreement with San Diego  
  6. Assure that the impacts of the new water conservation on the Salton Sea are fully mitigated and indemnification of IID, landowners and water users for any liability.   
  7. Address the socio-economic impact on the Imperial Valley economy from any land fallowing undertaken as a last resort to make conserved water under IID’s new agreement with Reclamation.   

If a new agreement includes credible commitments to addressing these concerns, we believe that we will have an agreement that will secure the necessary public support for board approval.” 

Hydrowonk has nothing to add. 

In Memory of Lloyd Allen 

Hydrowonk spoke at Lloyd’s memorial service on behalf of himself, and former Department of the Interior officials of the Clinton and Bush administrations.  I am honored that Lloyd’s beloved widow, Luz, requested a copy for the family. 

“Good morning. My name is Rodney Smith. I worked with Lloyd as an economic advisor to the Imperial Irrigation District since the early 1990s. I have been blessed to know and spend considerable time with Lloyd. As you all know, Lloyd was a devoted husband, father, business partner, community leader and IID director. This morning, I am here to honor Lloyd’s memory and share with you ‘outside the valley’ views of this truly remarkable man, based on my own experiences as well as other individuals who have asked me to present their thoughts this morning in his honor.  

Lloyd was forthright. I met Lloyd in the early 1990s. Ralph Menvielle called me at my inlaws on a Memorial Day (never found out how Ralph got their number) to say that Ted Lyon, Bill Condit and him were concerned about a pending agreement with Metropolitan Water District concerning the All American Canal. These three wanted a second opinion on the district’s alternatives before approving the agreement. Lloyd and his colleague, Don Cox were ready to sign and viewed Ralph’s venture a waste of time. I was retained on a 3-2 vote. After the engagement, which included a lengthy report and many briefings in closed sessions over a hectic 60 day period, the board decided to sign a renegotiated agreement with Metropolitan. As I left the closed session on the day of the vote, Lloyd took me aside before going into open session, shook my hand and said, ‘Rod, I was against getting you involved; I was wrong’. I was hooked. 

 Lloyd was an educator. Lloyd educated many a city folk about farming in the Imperial Valley. My friend and colleagues, John Carter and David Osias and I received many a tutorial about sugar beets, crop rotations, land maintenance, irrigation practices, agricultural markets, hardware stores and the like. During the recent financing of IID’s purchase of the Western Farm Lands, I accompanied Lloyd to San Francisco for the ‘road show’ with the Bond Rating Agencies. Lloyd captivated an audience of San Francisco financiers dressed in Italian suits and tasseled, skinny-toed shoes. I am convinced that the many years that Lloyd made these trips speaking on behalf of the Valley and IID’s policies was critical to the success of that financing, where IID received an across the board upgrade in its bond ratings and an unprecedented reduction in the cost of bond insurance.  

Lloyd was a gentleman. My wife, Lisa, routinely observes meetings of the Colorado River Board of California as part of our tracking for our publication. At all times, Lisa commented how Lloyd was sure to say hello to her and offer kind words and gestures. His continued interest in my wife’s recovery from her surgery a few years back harkens back to days when civility and manners reigned. Lloyd had vision.  

Lloyd’s feet were firmly planted in the Imperial Valley. Yet, Lloyd had an instinct about and understanding of the changing circumstances and evolving challenges for the Imperial Valley. Lloyd was not a prisoner of the past when preparing for the future.  

Lloyd had courage. Lloyd stood by his convictions. When state and federal officials told Lloyd how it ‘was going to be’, if it was not right for the Imperial Valley, it was wrong.  

Lloyd had humor. Lloyd used his hat collection in negotiations. He told the city folks that he could wear a ‘black hat’ or a ‘white hat’. It was their choice. He wore ‘Black Hats’ when talking to the Valley’s enemies and ‘White Hats’ when working with the Valley’s friends. Once, after all us IID folks listened to harangues from a series of big city politicians, Lloyd asked me during a caucus: ‘Rod, what on earth did the Valley do to piss those boys off?’ I answered, ‘Lloyd, they are jealous; the Valley’s forefathers planned for their community’s future, their’s didn’t’. ‘Well Rod, they shouldn’t be mad; they should be ashamed.’ Yep!  

Lloyd had integrity. Lloyd never forgot his obligations. He was constantly aware of his constituents’ interests and would never betray them. This was unspoken but known by all. When Lloyd indicated what was needed to serve the Imperial Valley’s interests, the city folks listened and the Imperial Valley prospered.  

I knew Lloyd, of course, as a politician, an IID director. Lloyd used his vision, convictions, knowledge, integrity, and an unwavering sense of responsibility in reaching his decisions. While mindful of political considerations and passions of the moment, Lloyd would never stray from his long-term path. In other words, Lloyd was more than a politician; Lloyd was a leader.  

I appreciate the privilege to share with Lloyd’s family, friends, the Imperial Valley community, the San Diego community and others what Lloyd Allen meant to me, an ‘outsider of the Valley’. But the true measure of a man is more than what he meant to his confidants. I close with what Lloyd meant to those on other sides of the table.  

I start with David Hayes, Secretary of the Interior Bruce Babbitt’s point man on Colorado River matters during the Clinton Administration. When I contacted David to inform him of Lloyd’s passing, he responded: “I would very much like to have you share my condolences with Lloyd’s family and many admirers. David wrote:  

I had the honor of working closely with Lloyd on water-related issues of supreme importance to the Imperial Valley, the State of California and the entire west. In my experience, no leader of any community was more effective in representing his constituents’ interests than Lloyd Allen.  

As all of you know, Lloyd had a down home charm, a deceptive ‘aw shucks’ demeanor that was both disarming and effective. When I visited the Imperial Valley on behalf of the United States Government—not always-so-welcome emissary, Lloyd was unfailingly courteous and generous—always looking for me to leave with a bag of fresh tomatoes and onions; a friendly but subtle reminder of what the Valley was about.  

And yet what really distinguished Lloyd Allen was not only his genuineness as a human being, but also his remarkably clear-headed and visionary understanding of how best to advance the interests of his beloved Imperial Valley.  

I personally will always be grateful to Lloyd for the courage and leadership that he showed at every turn in that regard. Lloyd always had his eye on the prize—security and prosperity for the Valley—and through his untiring efforts, he earned that prize for the Valley, creating a long-lasting legacy of which his family and community should be very proud.’ 

The Clinton Administration gave way to the Bush Administration. Bennett Raley followed David Hayes. When I contacted Bennett about Lloyd’s passing, he requested that I read the following: ‘Lloyd Allen represented the Imperial Valley with integrity and honor. His leadership during trying times defined the meaning of public service. I will miss him.’ 

For once, we can all agree with Bennett Raley. We will all miss Lloyd Allen.” 

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About Rodney T. Smith

Rodney T. Smith, Ph.D., President of Stratecon Inc.—an economics and strategic planning consulting firm—advises public and private sector water users on the acquisition, sale and leasing of water rights and water supplies in the western U.S. He is routinely involved in economic valuation of water rights, water investments, and negotiation of water acquisition and transportation agreements and has served as an expert witness in the economic valuation of groundwater resources, disputes over the economic interpretation of water contracts, economics of water conservation and water use practices, and the socio-economic impacts of land fallowing. For more information, see www.stratwater.com.