Saving the Salton Sea will stop a threat to the health of thousands while preserving essential Pacific Flyway habitat to endangered migratory wildfowl. The Imperial Irrigation District (IID) — the nation’s largest such entity — and Imperial County recently published the first achievable plan to do just that. Achievable…if California acts now.
The Salton Sea Restoration and Renewable Energy Initiative (SSRREI) would create and maintain a smaller, sustainable Salton Sea. It would prevent huge, toxic dust storms from engulfing the residents of the Imperial and Coachella valleys, endangering thousands of lives with serious, and in too many cases fatal, respiratory ailments. It would use geothermal and other renewable energy developments to help pay for the work and stimulate the severely lagging local economy. It would provide an irreplaceable way-station for millions of wildfowl. And it protects the integrity of the all-important Quantification Settlement Agreement that has brought about a significant level of water supply stability to So CA.
SSREI includes shovel-ready projects that can be started next year. It will place shoreline ponds for fowl and fish in areas identified by agencies and environmentalists. It will cover more area with a variety of renewable energy facilities, including geothermal, solar and biofuel. The state’s largest geothermal development would furnish Southern California with clean, reliable baseload energy to supplement intermittent solar and wind power.
Of course, funding is key. The State in 2007 proposed a $9-billion restoration plan that was immediately and widely recognized as a non-starter. Until the SSREI, however, there was no vision, no clear path. The SSREI funding: $150 million from the Prop. 1 Water Bond for a 2016 jump-start on projects already approved, an investment of $1 billion in revenue bonds to be repaid with interest from the energy projects, $1 billion in state Cap and Trade funds (from 2015-2025) to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and to benefit disadvantaged communities, and $1 billion invested from the State over the next five years.
SSREI will prevent devastating impacts to California’s water supply and environment, and to the region’s people and economy — while protecting the Pacific Flyway and building clean energy. The time to start work is right now.
Links to the full plan and local media coverage: