5/16/14 – SCAG endorses IID plan for Salton Sea restoration and renewable energy development

IID Press Release, 5-16-14

Earlier this month, the General Assembly of the Southern California Association of Governments, a joint powers authority encompassing six counties (Imperial, Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino and Ventura), adopted a resolution supporting the Imperial Irrigation District’s Salton Sea Restoration and Renewable Energy Initiative. 

Designed to jump-start restoration efforts through the use of renewable energy development along the sea’s shores, the initiative will take advantage of the Known Geothermal Resource Area located in the southeastern portion of the sea while at the same time help address negative habitat and air quality issues facing the region. 

“The Salton Sea Restoration and Renewable Energy Initiative provides a clear blueprint for restoration and development possibilities at the sea,” said Cheryl Viegas-Walker, first vice president of SCAG and mayor of El Centro. “As the sea recedes it will not only create health and air quality issues, but also has the potential to impact farming and industry operations in Southern California.” 

Prior to the General Assembly vote, SCAG leaders toured various areas surrounding the Salton Sea including Red Hill Bay and the Sonny Bono Wildlife Refuge. “It was a good opportunity to bring colleagues from throughout Southern California to see firsthand the sea and its potential,” added Viegas-Walker. 

This initiative is important to all of California as it ensures the continued viability of the 2003 Quantification Settlement Agreement, the nation’s largest agriculture-to-urban water transfer, which includes commitments from the state to provide environmental mitigation and funding responsibilities at the sea. In 2018, the QSA will transition from fallowing to efficiency-based conservation measures. Deliveries of mitigation water meant to offset conservation impacts of the QSA will also come to an end. This will result in significantly reduced inflows to the Salton Sea and trigger the beginning of dramatic declines in water surface elevation, increased salinity levels and accelerated playa exposure. 

“There are more than 1,700 megawatts of untapped geothermal resources at the sea. Harnessing this baseload power will not only provide clean renewable energy to the state grid, it also brings a much needed economic boost to a region which needs it most,” said IID Board President James Hanks. 

The initiative was crafted as a result of an October 2013 Memorandum of Understanding between IID and Imperial County in which the agencies pledged a joint effort to find collaborative Salton Sea restoration solutions. 

More than 15 other public agencies have pledged support of the initiative in recent months including the Salton Sea Authority, Coachella Valley Association of Governments, Geothermal Resources Council, Geothermal Energy Association, Imperial County, Riverside County and the Imperial County Building & Construction Trades Council. 

For more information on the initiative or to view a full list of endorsements, visit www.iid.com/saltonsea.