IID issues Salton Sea Ultimatum


Last updated 12/1/2016 at 11:43pm

After more than a decade of inaction by the state, the Imperial Irrigation District (IID) has announced that it has no choice but to use the water transfers agreed on in 2003, as a bargaining tool. If the state doesn’t agree to the proposed ten year schedule of restoration for the Salton Sea by Dec. 31, the IID could try to cut off water supplies to the Coachella Valley and San Diego County.

“They want to add a new condition to an existing agreement. You can’t just unilaterally do that,” John Powell, president of the water district’s board of directors, said in an interview Thursday, however Kevin Kelley, the IID’s general manager, states that “Action is needed now. There is currently no plan in place with goals and objectives, with enforceable metrics and with actionable timelines. These are required because already the (Salton Sea) Task Force’s actions are not keeping pace with the rate of expansion of playa exposure.”

With the threat of environmental and public health consequences spiraling out of control by 2018, the Imperial Irrigation District (IID) have requested the state board to take immediate and definitive action before the end of 2016 to adopt a ten-year road map for Salton Sea restoration. Appearing before the State Water Resources Control Board in Sacramento, the district noted there is currently no concrete program in place at the start of 2018 when playa exposure is expected to increase at exponentially increasing rates.

If there is no concrete program in place, Kelley added, the sea will face a 150,000-acre-foot shortfall in mitigation water under the state order required by the Quantification Settlement Agreement. The failure to adopt such a roadmap would, in IID’s view, preclude the district’s ability to participate in Drought Contingency Measures being discussed on the Colorado River. “IID’s participation hinges on the adoption of a clear ten-year plan for the Salton Sea, which has far reaching impacts to both Southern and Northern California water agencies,” Kelley said.

The District and Imperial County’s proposed roadmap includes:

• Identify interim acreages for habitat restoration and/or dust suppression for each year between 2017 and 2025 and timely construct the projects to meet those interim acreage targets.

• Provide the necessary resources to construct those habitat restoration and/or dust suppression projects.

• Includes the development of 500 megawatts of geothermal projects, including the 250 MW already called for by the federal government, no later than 2025.

• Include in each year’s budget, from FY 2018 through FY 2026, an amount sufficient to construct the projects identified in the roadmap.

• Conduct quarterly oversight hearings, convened jointly by the State Water Resources Control Board and the California Air Resources Board.

• Require all state agencies to streamline permitting processes for habitat restoration and/or dust suppression projects.


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