Imperial, California - In taking the next steps to avert the impending demise of the Salton Sea, eventual public health crisis and spur carbon-free energy development for California, the Imperial Irrigation District Board of Directors has released a new framework document that provides a comprehensive vision and specific actions in support of its Salton Sea Restoration and Renewable Energy Initiative.
A joint effort between IID and Imperial County, the initiative is a multiphased approach to Salton Sea restoration – the first phase being the development of a plan for an incremental restoration approach that will bridge the gap between current conditions and longer-range Salton Sea restoration planning measures.
The 260-page draft document details short-, medium- and long-term implementation plans (ranging from 2016 to 2024 and beyond) based on five specific goals: ensuring water supply reliability for California, protecting public health, developing carbon-free energy, protecting and restoring the sea’s ecosystem and providing for economic growth.
“IID and Imperial County believe that we must create and maintain a smaller but sustainable Salton Sea,” said Bruce Wilcox, IID environmental and Salton Sea program manager. “A reconfigured sea will limit fugitive dust emissions, preserve and create avian habitat and expand economic opportunity for one of California’s most economically distressed areas.”
The initiative provides a viable and realistic solution that can be set into motion in the current year.
“This solution will help to preserve the Quantification Settlement Agreement and related water transfers, which are critical to Southern California’s water supply reliability,” said IID board President Stephen Benson. “The time for studies has passed. Now is the time for real action. We urge the state of California to join us in implementing the plan proposed in this framework, and to begin immediately.”
The framework document was presented to the IID Board of Directors during its July 28 meeting. At this point, the initial step is for the state of California, acting through the governor’s task force announced in the May budget revise, to meet with IID and the county and further develop the general contours of the proposal, including the next steps to be taken to move forward with the implementation strategy. An implementing agreement between the state, IID and the county would then be submitted to the State Water Resources Control Board in late 2015, enabling the SWRCB to approve the implementing agreement by the end of 2015.
The initiative includes construction of additional habitat in designated areas as funds become available and construction of an infrastructure backbone that promotes development of renewable energy in areas of exposed playa. It also addresses pupfish habitat requirements, provides water, power and access roads for habitat and promotes air quality mitigation land uses around the sea.
The final leg of the initiative includes construction of geothermal development and other renewable energy projects.
IID is taking comments on the framework document. A full version of the document will be on display at local libraries and available for download at www.iid.com/saltonsea.