Wa­ter im­port pro­pos­als shared with the pub­lic

Imperial Valley Press - - FRONT PAGE - BY ED­WIN DEL­GADO

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/

ED­WIN DEL­GADO PHOTO

Nathan White of Agess Inc. presents his pro­posed project at a packed Board of Su­per­vi­sors Cham­bers on Mon­day Af­ter­noon.

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