Water import proposals shared with the public
EL CENTRO — Proposals for importing water into the Salton Sea included both innovative and familiar ones at a forum presentation to county officials and members of the public yesterday.
The forum included presentations for 10 of the 11 seawater import proposals submitted to the state in March as a potential longterm solution to mitigating the health and environmental impacts of the receding shoreline at the Salton Sea.
The goal of the workshop was for public officials and the residents to get a glimpse about the projects submitted to the state’s Natural Resources Agency.
Secretary of Salton Sea Policy Bruce Wilcox said during the workshop the presentations made on Monday were not part of the current evaluation process being done by CNRA.
The basic idea behind the proposals is to import up to 2 million acre feet of water to the Salton Sea. The most common concept is to pass the water from the Sea of Cortez — located southeast of Mexicali — through the existing Coyote Canal along Laguna Salada to the Salton Sea through the New River or a separate channel to the west.
Arguably the most intriguing of the presentations was made by Transform Water and Power. It is proposing a completely different idea. Rather than importing water from the ocean, Lane Sharman, CEO of the company, said its idea was to import from the air.
Transform’s concept involved using available dehumidifier technology to retrieve water vapor out of the air and convert it into water that can be delivered to the Salton Sea.
Sharman said in his presentation that 3,000 of these units could produce as many as 1.68 million acre feet of water per year. He wants the state to invest $4 million in a two-year pilot project to prove the concept.
The total material cost for this proposal is estimated at $950 million. Sherman also mentioned the project could incorporate a hydroelectric component and floating solar to reduce evaporation.
Tom Sephton, president of Sephton Water Technologies, presented a plan that included distilling imported water to cut down on the salinity of the already hypersaline Salton Sea. He estimates his project could be done for $900 million.
Gary Jennings, managing partner of the Sea to Sea development team, asked Wilcox to consider splitting the entire project into smaller, more manageable components. His fear is that if the project starts looking too big, it will be easier for the state to walk away from it.
“We need to start this project now,” Jennings said during his presentation.
At least two other presenters said the state needs to decide quickly which if any of the projects it will seek to implement in order to get started with what will likely be a long and difficult process.
One of the more robust presentations made on Monday was the project presentation given by GEI consultants and Michael Clinton Consulting. They proposed a set of stages to be completed to import 2 million acre feet of water from north of San Felipe, bypassing the Cocopah tribal land.
Because the Mexican government won’t allow any water to be taken out of the cuatrocienegas biosphere in the northernmost point of the Gulf of California, an apparent change made to different proposals now calls from moving the water from near San Felipe approximately 20 miles south of where the biosphere is located.
One of the proponents the Cordoba Corporation said one of the possibilities they’ve explored so far is to get the water from the east side of the biosphere through a former shrimp farm in the state of Sonora.
At the end of the workshop, Wilcox said the state will continue to review the eleven projects and will provide additional information on what concepts or projects the state will pursue by mid-June.
However, there is still some skepticism on whether the state will look into these projects seriously.
So far, the state of California has only committed to evaluating the proposals. It has not committed to water importation being the avenue it will pursue as part of the long-term solution for the Salton Sea.
Despite much anticipation by some of the supporters of the concept, Michael Cohen, senior associate researcher of the Pacific Institute and member of the CNRA’s Long Range Plan Committee, said last week that having these presentations without set criteria or a plan is not the best idea due to a lack of direction from the state.
“We need direction to seriously evaluate the proposals,” Cohen said. “In the past, the CNRA has stated it has no money for this. If so, why are we even moving forward?”
The complete proposals can be found online at http://resources. ca.gov/salton-sea/
Nathan White of Agess Inc. presents his proposed project at a packed Board of Supervisors Chambers on Monday Afternoon.