Imperial Irrigation District Releases Framework for Salton Sea Restoration

Seeking to reverse the decline of the Salton Sea and spur the development of carbon-free energy sources, the Imperial Irrigation District Board of Directors has released a multi-phased framework to support its Salton Sea Restoration and Renewable Energy Initiative.

The 260-page draft document – a joint effort between IID and Imperial County – details short-, medium- and long-term implementation plans (ranging from 2016 to 2024 and beyond) that seek to incrementally restore the Salton Sea. The framework is 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,” Bruce Wilcox, IID environmental and Salton Sea program manager, said in a written statement. “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.”

According to a press release from IID, the initiative seeks to provide 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 newly unveiled initiative includes construction of habitat in designated areas and the build-out of infrastructure that promotes development of renewable energy. The initiative 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 stage of the initiative includes construction of geothermal and other renewable energy projects.

The framework document was presented to the IID Board of Directors during its July 28 meeting. The next steps for framework 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 to further develop the general contours of the proposal. 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  State Water Board to approve the implementing agreement by the end of 2015.

IID is taking public 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.