Imperial County and the Imperial Irrigation District approve Memorandum of Understanding

 Salton Sea water bird
EL CENTRO – The Imperial County Board of Supervisors and the Directors of the Imperial Irrigation District approved a Memorandum of Understanding among the County of Imperial, the Imperial County Air Pollution Control District and the Imperial Irrigation District outlining how these agencies 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.

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.

“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,” said Imperial County Board of Supervisors Chairman Ray Castillo. “While the State of California is responsible for funding restoration of the Salton Sea, IID and Imperial County have no choice but to try and kick-start this process to avoid reaching a point where the damage at the Sea and its negative impacts on human health, the environment and our locally economy become irreversible.”

The 2003 Quantification Settlement Agreement among the State of California, the federal government and local water agencies limited California’s draw on the Colorado River to 4.4 million acre feet per year. To enable the State to live within this allocation, an agreement was reached to transfer conserved water from the Imperial Irrigation District to the San Diego County Water Authority and other agencies. Because water conservation would reduce historic inflows to the Salton Sea and cause it to shrink (and exposing tens of thousands of acres of lakebed), the signatories committed to address these impacts and the State committed to fund restoration efforts in excess of $133 million.

“After a decade of litigation, the momentum is now finally building for an affirmative, viable solution for restoring the Salton Sea through collaboration,” said IID Board of Directors Chairman Matt Dessert . “By leveraging the renewable energy potential at and around the Salton Sea, we not only can help bolster state funding for restoration to save the sea, but also help meet the state’s energy needs, improve our local economy and provide a working laboratory for new energy technologies.”

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.