Calipatria, Calif. – The Imperial County Board of Supervisors and the directors of the Imperial Irrigation District held a special signing ceremony Thursday at the Salton Sea commemorating a Memorandum of Understanding that outlines how the county, the Imperial County Air Pollution Control District and the IID will work together to restore California’s largest and most troubled inland lake and avert severe harm to public health, the local economy and wildlife habitat resulting from its continued decline in water quality and elevation.
Master of Ceremonies, Gary Wyatt, Director of Intergovernmental Relations for Imperial County, opened the signing by reminding the attending dignitaries that the shores of the Salton Sea are littered with more than just the dead bones of fish, but also by restoration plans of past agencies. “Yet, the dreams of saving the Sea by past visionaries such as George Brown, Sonny Bono, and Roy Wilson lived on.”
Executive Director of the Salton Sea Authority, Roger Shintaku, reminisced of his childhood days boating at the Sea. “I have memories of better days, in stark contrast to today.”
“The Salton Sea is arguably the most pressing and challenging issue facing the Imperial Valley,” said State Assemblyman V. Manuel Pérez during the ceremony. “This MOU embodies how we, as local stakeholders, cooperate on the common goal of restoring the sea for the long-term wellbeing of our communities, our economy and our environment. This is an exciting time—today’s MOU signing, the approval of my restoration governance bill AB 71 and the $2 million in state funds to conduct a restoration funding and feasibility study all help to ensure meaningful local participation in the state’s efforts to restore the Salton Sea.”
Under the MOU, the parties agree to pursue an array of activities to plan for the restoration of a sustainable Salton Sea and to assist the state of California in its obligation to fund restoration efforts through the development of renewable energy projects at and around the sea. IID Board President Matt Dessert said that by leveraging the renewable energy potential at and around the Salton Sea, state funding for restoration to save the sea can be boosted while also helping to meet the state’s energy needs, improve the local economy and provide a working laboratory for new energy technologies.
Imperial County Board of Supervisors Chairman Ray Castillo added, “The County of Imperial and its air district are happy to unite with the IID to defend the environment and economy of the Imperial Valley. Our agencies are unified that the commitments made a decade ago to address the negative impacts of water transfers from the Imperial Valley to coastal urban communities on the Salton Sea must be honored.”
Castillo also said, “Today’s signing sends a loud message to the state, ‘No more water transfers out of the Imperial Valley. No, never.”
Many spoke that this MOU opens the door for the state to grant renewable energy permits that will bring jobs and funding for the State of California to keep their promise of mitigating the Salton Sea.
The terms of the MOU include commitments by the parties to develop renewable energy resources at the sea and secure state and federal action to harness these resources and enable the sea’s restoration, including:
- Work cooperatively to develop geothermal, wind, algae and solar energy in the Known Geothermal Resource Area and around the Salton Sea to generate local restoration funds;
- Jointly pursue a state commitment to build and fund a transmission line with export capacity of 1,400-1,700 megawatts to transport energy from the KGRA to load centers throughout the state;
- Create opportunities with private developers to pursue projects on IID-owned land and pledges the use of IID’s land and mineral assets to generate funding;
- Work with the Salton Sea Authority to update its restoration plan consistent with inflow estimates and projected revenue;
- Jointly pursue a strategy to secure funding and supportive actions from state and federal governments, including the pledging of land assets, adoption of an energy surcharge at Hoover Dam and acknowledgment that using water for mitigation and restoration at the Salton Sea is a reasonable and beneficial use;
- Affirm that no further water transfer agreements will be entered into and that IID will withdraw its petition with the State Water Resources Control Board to end mitigation flows sooner than the end of 2017;
- Coordinate activities on air quality matters ;
- Evaluate the development of alternative water supplies locally and encourage coastal communities to pursue desalinization; and
- Preserve IID’s energy balancing authority.