A view of the receding shoreline of the Salton Sea that exposes contaminated playa that is then blown through the Imperial Valley
EL CENTRO – The County Board of Supervisors grappled with three bills Assemblyman V. Manuel Perez (District 56) has introduced concerning the restoration of the Salton Sea, and commercializing the land adjacent to the sea for renewable energy and funding the restoration.
Assembly Bill 71, The Salton Sea Restoration Act, designates $2 million for the Salton Sea Authority (SSA) to use for a feasibility study to locate money to fund sea restoration. With realization that the state doesn’t have the money, outside funds are needed, especially with the possible implementation of the QSA in the near future.
It is estimated that in the next five years, if the QSA continues, over 26 acres of Salton Sea shoreline will be exposed, subjecting the Valley to dust pollution of the dried sea residue, referred to as playa.
The bill will also look for funds through assessing utilities, state procurements, and development fees.
The grant generated through the bill would be administered through the Fish and Wildlife department. Brad Poiriez, Imperial County Air Pollution Control Officer (APCO), expressed concerns about that.
Poiriez said, “The APCO reviewed all bills, and with AB 71 we had a few concerns. Our air district and the South Coast Air District operate under the Clean Air Act, and we want to make sure 71 doesn’t broach that. We could support the bill if the language was revised in subsequent drafts to dovetail with the Clean Air Act.”
The bill establishes collaboration between the state’s departments of natural resources and the SSA technical advisory committee. It specifies that reports are led by technical experts and the SSA’s technical staff. Silvia Paz, Assemblyman Perez’s representative at the board meeting said that this bill also meets the requirement in a 2006 bill that called for a funding feasibility study, and that had never been implemented.
Supervisor Jack Terrazas voiced frustration for additional funds for another study on the sea, but voted with the rest of the members to support the bill with wording for Perez to work with the APCO to comply with the Clean Air Act.
This bill deals with the Salton Sea dust mitigation. Air Quality Officer, Brad Poiriez, asked that this bill stay within the confines of the Clean Air Act, too. He explained that the bill calls for unnecessary duplicating reports. He also said that the dust mitigation control is funneled through the Secretary of Natural Resources rather than through their normal chain of action as set up by the Clean Air Act.
Poiriez pointed out that the bill language matched up with Fish and Wildlife codes and not Air Quality codes. “We need to line the language up to satisfy both sets, and for the state to recognize the local air district authority. We can work with the bill’s author, but a lot of work is needed.”
The other major issue the board had was that some of the SSA members also were from the water agency that the county is in active litigation over concerning their contribution the Sea’s playa.
Paz acknowledged that Perez recognized the APCO’s concerns and was working with both air quality boards. She mentioned that this bill did not have funding as of this date and the bill would not move forward without funds.
The board voted to support AB 147 but with direction.
The last bill Perez has introduced on the Salton Sea calls for a grant fund for a pilot project that identifies possible renewable energy resources around the Sea and then moving to commercialize these businesses.
Assemblyman Charles Calderon introduced a similar bill last year, but it only dealt with algae. This bill encompasses all renewable energy enterprises. The bill specifies money made in renewable commercialization must be directed into the Salton Sea Restoration Fund.
The board had issues with the bill’s language calling on state royalties. Geothermal plants pay royalties already to the landowners, as would any other energy plant built at the sea. The board showed reservation with language that called for revenue sharing, saying siphoning more money from fledgling renewable energy development was counterproductive.
The board agreed that there is an enormous amount of energy renewal potential adjacent to the sea with solar, bio-fuels, and geothermal, but they wondered where these funds were going to come from for a pilot project.
The board voted to not to take a position on the bill, but to continue to work with the assemblyman on the bill’s language.