County and IID agree on plan for Salton Sea

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Salton Sea red rocks

The Imperial Irrigation District Board of Directors today approved a term sheet with Imperial County that represents a common vision of Salton Sea restoration in which renewable energy generation would provide a long-term funding mechanism and establish an enduring public-private partnership.

The action taken by the IID board follows that of the Imperial County Board of Supervisors a week ago and paves the way for a memorandum of understanding between the two public agencies that would signal a resolution of their longstanding dispute in the Quantification Settlement Agreement litigation.

“It has taken more than a decade to get to this point,” said Matt Dessert, IID board president, “but we are finally in a position to present a unified front on behalf of the sea and the region. Now it’s time for other QSA parties, including the state and federal government, to do the same.”

Imperial County is “pleased to join with IID in pursuing our shared vision of what the Salton Sea can and should be in the years ahead,” said Ray Castillo, chairman of the county board. “It’s good to finally be on the same page with the district and to have a common purpose.”

Among the terms included in the document approved by both boards are the following:
• An endorsement of the 2006 restoration model of the Salton Sea Authority, but with refreshed hydrological and cost estimates.
• Air quality, habitat, recreation and stabilization of the sea’s elevation and salinity levels as key foundational elements to guide the restoration planning process.
• Recognition by the state and federal governments that the use of Colorado River water to restore the Salton Sea and mitigate the impacts of the QSA water transfers is a reasonable and beneficial use.
• Joint pursuit of a state commitment to build transmission interconnecting to the district’s electric system for the export of up to 1,400 megawatts of renewable energy from the Salton Sea resource area to load centers throughout the state.
• An understanding that any MOU agreed to by the agencies will survive the current litigation and is meant to resolve all litigation issues between IID, Imperial County and its Air Pollution Control District and, ultimately, all the parties to the QSA coordinated cases.

At the request of IID and Imperial County, a tentative decision in the QSA litigation was stayed until June 3, 2013, by Sacramento Superior Court Judge Lloyd Connelly. Mediation to reach settlement with all the parties is currently under way.

County and IID Term Sheet

Preamble: the parties agree on the necessity to identify (a) a sufficient water budget for all Imperial Valley uses including implementation of a restoration plan for the Salton Sea, (b) a sufficient funding plan, and (c) environmental measures to protect the surrounding region. The Salton Sea restoration plan will be ongoing and its terms embraced as part of the final judgment in the QSA litigation binding on the parties to that proceeding.

These present negotiations will survive any decisions by the Sacramento Superior Court. The goal of these negotiations is, through development of a Salton Sea restoration plan and adequate air quality mitigation, to resolve all litigation issues between the Imperial Irrigation District (IID), the County of Imperial (County), and Imperial County Air Pollution Control District (Air District); and ultimately among all the parties to the QSA Coordinated Proceedings.

1. IID and the County endorse the 2006 restoration model of the Salton Sea Authority (SSA Restoration Plan) but will revisit with the authority its assumptions regarding cost and hydrology.

2. IID and the County will jointly pursue a strategy consisting of federal, state and regional (local and district) long-term funding to carry out the SSA Restoration Plan.

3. Air quality, habitat, recreation, stabilization of Salton Sea elevation and salinity, and water quality improvement will serve as the key foundational elements and guide the planning process in any revisions to the SSA Restoration Plan resulting from Number 1 above, and its implementation.

4. IID recognizes the statutory authority of the Air District to establish requirements to reach attainment for PM-10 and other Clean Air Act criteria, which shall be adhered to in all restoration modeling, planning and implementation and, IID and all other landowners shall implement sufficient mitigation measures accordingly.

5. The Parties mutually agree that sufficient water for Imperial County agricultural, municipal and industrial uses is a critical and indispensable priority. After these needs are satisfied, Colorado River water will be an essential part of implementing the SSA Restoration Plan, and mitigating air quality impacts. Therefore, the Secretary of Interior and State Water Resources Control Board must agree that the use of Colorado River water to restore the Salton Sea and mitigate the impacts of the water transfers and other reductions is a reasonable and beneficial use.

6. IID in collaboration with the County will pledge its extensive land and mineral assets in the Salton Sea Known Geothermal Resource Area (KGRA) to establish a renewable energy development area and will conduct an “open season” within the development community in May 7, 2013 order to create public/private partnerships that contribute to the Salton Sea restoration and mitigation fund.

7. IID and the County will jointly pursue a state commitment to build transmission interconnecting to the district’s system for grid reliability and the export of up to 1,400 MW of renewable energy from the Salton Sea KGRA to the load centers throughout the state. It is understood that with this state commitment will come the explicit acknowledgement of up to 1,400 MW of Resource Adequacy and an equivalent volume of must-take power purchase agreements.

8. IID and the County will examine, and if determined feasible, pursue alternative supplies, including the concept of bringing sea water to the Salton Sea, pursuit of local roundwater resources, reclaimed water, and other available water resources to augment current water supplies.

9. IID and the County will endorse an energy surcharge at Hoover Dam to contribute to the Salton Sea restoration and mitigation fund.

10. IID and the County will request the federal government to pledge its own land and mineral assets within the Salton Sea KGRA, and the decommissioned Naval Test Site, for the development of renewable energy generation.

11. IID and the County estimate that the cost of the above restoration effort will be at least $3 billion, and the anticipated build-out of 1,400 MW of renewable energy generation and associated transmission may require 10 years.

12. IID and the County agree that all development shall be structured to maximize local economic benefit.

13. IID agrees to withdraw its pending petition before the State Water Resources Control Board, that would permit reduction of IID inflows into the Sea.

14. IID will not take any future actions, nor enter into any agreements such as additional water transfers, and will vigorously oppose any effort by any party, which would result in the further reduction of its water diversions from the Colorado River.