Riverside Supervisors Contemplate $350 Million Tax for Salton Sea

A proposed tax district would help pay for restoration of the upper half of the Salton Sea if approved.

By California News Wire Services, News Partner | May 21, 2019 5:26 pm ET

RIVERSIDE COUNTY, CA — Riverside County supervisors Tuesday approved a four- month postponement of a meeting on a proposed tax district to pay for restoration of the upper half of the Salton Sea.

In a 5-0 vote without comment, the Board of Supervisors moved the previously set June 11 meeting to Oct. 15, at the same location — the North Shore Beach & Yacht Club at 9115 Sea View Drive in Mecca.

The meeting time is currently set for 11 a.m. Any changes will be publicized.

According to Executive Office staff, the date change was necessary because drawing up specifics of how the proposed Salton Sea Enhanced Infrastructure Financing District will work requires additional time, and sending notices to everyone who may be impacted by the tax district has also proved to be a chore.

Supervisors Manuel Perez and Jeff Hewitt are seated on the Enhanced Infrastructure Financing District Authority formed by the board last October. Both men are slated to attend the October meeting.

The Salton Sea EIFD will require voter support to be established.

EIFDs were authorized under Senate Bill 628 in 2014 and permit bond sales to finance construction of private and public projects. The estimated cost of shoring up the north end of the receding 360-square-mile lake is $350 million, according to the Executive Office.

The proposed EIFD would be fixed between the Imperial County line to the south and the boundaries of Coachella and Indio to the north, as well as west to the city limit of La Quinta and roughly 40 miles east of state Route 111. Torres-Martinez tribal land would be exempt.

An EIFD relies on “tax increment” to pay off the bonds issued in support of it. Tax increment is generated by projects within specified locations that increase property values.

Perez, whose Fourth District encompasses the Salton Sea’s north side, has been advocating measures to pay for projects aimed at preserving and fortifying what’s left of the dying lake, most of which is in Imperial County.

According to the Executive Office, the Salton Sea EIFD would ensure funding for an earthen dam to control water loss.

Sorting out what strategies to employ for preservation of the Salton Sea has been a two-decade process lacking results.

Executive Office staff pointed out in October that $25 million from Proposition 50 in 2006 was expended on research but no game plan for saving the Sea. Similarly, $400 million from Proposition 84 in 2014 was earmarked for projects to mitigate environmental damage from the shrinking body of water, but there was nothing proactive done.

Proposition 66, the $4 billion water bond measure approved by voters last June, set aside $200 million for Sea projects. If the state continues to tarry without applying funds to a fix, evaporation will continue, exposing more lakebed and raising public health risks, according to the county.

Water reclamation by local agencies and Mexico, plus the loss of Colorado River supplies that originally fed the Salton Sea, have caused water levels to drop and salinity to spike.

For 15 years, the Coachella Valley Water District and the Imperial Irrigation District agreed to replenish some of the water drawn out of the sea in order to limit lakebed exposure, but that mitigation effort ended on Jan. 1, 2018, leaving the area’s future ecology in doubt.

— By City News Service

IID acts to advance Salton Sea restoration projects


FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
May 7, 2019
Contact: Robert Schettler 1-760-427-5264 le 3 A

IID acts to advance Salton Sea restoration projects

The Imperial Irrigation District Board of Directors, Tuesday, approved an agreement with the state of California that paves the way for restoration projects identified in the state’s 10-year Salton Sea Management Program to move forward.

The easement agreement entered into between the district and the state, through the California Department of Water Resources, grants access to IID-owned lands that border the sea for constructing and maintaining the project. The action allows the California Natural Resources Agency to seek proposals for design-build contracts for the Species Conservation Habitat Project, which intends to provide habitat for fish and birds while suppressing harmful dust on Salton Sea lands that are no longer under water.

“Today’s action by the IID Board will help these important projects cross the finish line,” said Henry Martinez, general manager, who worked closely with state officials on the agreement. “IID has committed a significant amount of time and resources into the development of the Species Conservation Habitat Project and we look forward to seeing the project completed.”

The Species Conservation Habitat Project encompasses about 3,770 acres of exposed playa, which spans the New River at the Salton Sea. As set forth in the state’s 10-year Sea restoration plan, the project includes ponds using blended water from the New River and the Salton Sea, which will be more than 6 feet deep to accommodate a sustainable fishery.

The California Natural Resources Agency is currently in the process of seeking responses to a request for qualifications to develop a short list of bidders for the project. 

The easement agreement allows for the planning, design, construction, implementation, operation, maintenance, repair, etc., of the restoration project. f

IID statement regarding Assemblyman Mayes’ legislation

Below is a statement form the Imperial Irrigation District regarding legislation authored by Assemblymember Chad Mayes (R-Yucca Valley). Immediately after the statement is the five-page letter from IID General Counsel to the Assemblymember.

IID statement regarding Assemblyman Mayes’ legislation

Post Date:03/01/2019 9:24 AM

Imperial Irrigation District and the IID Board of Directors have proudly served and represented its valued customers in Imperial and Coachella valleys with some of the lowest energy rates in California.

Ten local residents from the IID service area in the Coachella Valley serve on IID’s Energy Consumers Advisory Committee, which meets monthly and advises the IID Board of Directors on energy matters.

The legislation introduced last week by Assemblyman Mayes is a serious matter for the IID and can only be seen as a direct attack on the authority of the IID Board and the water and energy rights it holds in trust and to which it is duty-bound to protect.

The district is concerned about the far-reaching impacts of this bill as well as the potential legal matters, which would surely ensue.

The IID Board is expected to discuss the matter during a special meeting Friday, March 1, and will be meeting with Assemblyman Mayes next week to discuss in greater detail.

As part of the long-standing compromise agreement with the Coachella Valley Water District to serve energy to the area, IID pays CVWD 8 percent of its  energy net proceeds ($45 million to date), an additional benefit to the Coachella Valley.

LA Times: As states near deal on Colorado River shortage, California looks at water cuts of as much as 8%

As states near deal on Colorado River shortage, California looks at water cuts of as much as 8%

After years of stop-and-go talks, California and two other states that take water from the lower Colorado River are nearing an agreement on how to share delivery cuts if a formal shortage is declared on the drought-plagued waterway.

Under the proposed pact, California — the river’s largest user — would reduce diversions earlier in a shortage than it would if the lower-basin states strictly adhered to a water-rights pecking order. California’s huge river take would drop 4.5% to 8% as the shortage progressed.

With occasional years of relief, the river that greens farm fields and fills faucets from Colorado to California has been stuck in drought since 2000. A shortage declaration has been looming over the seven-state basin for more than a decade, only to be narrowly averted time and again when rain and snow in the upper basin pushed reservoir levels above the trigger point.

Nearly two decades of drought in the Colorado River Basin have taken their toll on Lake Mead, a major source of water for Southern California. (John Locher / Associated Press)

But flows into Lake Powell — one of the Colorado’s two massive reservoirs — fell to a little more than a third of the average for the April-through-July period this year. And September’s inflow was negligible, less than 1% of the average. Looking at those numbers, federal officials say the U.S. Interior Department could declare a shortage in 2020.

“It’s pretty clear we’re in a deepening long-term drought cycle,” said Jeffrey Kightlinger, general manager of the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, which has been importing Colorado River water to the region since the early 1940s. “It’s in everybody’s interest to prevent the system from cratering.”

The basin’s entire storage system is 47% full. Lake Powell, which stores runoff from the upper basin and releases it to Lake Mead, is 45% full. Mead, the source of Southern California’s river water, is 38% full.

The Interior secretary has never declared a shortage on the Colorado. But it has been known for years that the river is over-allocated. The basin states divvied up the flows in the early 20th century — a period that in hindsight was unusually wet and presented an unrealistic picture of what the Colorado could produce year in and year out.

Diversions are regulated by a complicated system of river compacts and water rights that call for Arizona and Nevada to take the first cuts in times of a lower-basin shortage. California, with some of the oldest river rights, is further down the line.

The sprawling Imperial Irrigation District and other farm districts in southeastern California control roughly 75% of California’s 4.4 million-acre-foot share. Imperial is the single largest user on the entire length of the river, which starts at the Continental Divide in the Colorado Rockies and has an average annual flow of roughly 15 million acre-feet.

Metropolitan has nearly doubled its base allocation of 550,000 acre-feet through agreements with Imperial and other irrigation districts that fallow crop land and sell their unused river supplies. Those deals would help cushion Metropolitan, which serves Southern California, if a shortage is declared. (An acre-foot is enough to supply more than two households for a year.)

Metropolitan would also benefit from water it has been able to bank in Lake Mead under 2007 drought guidelines that have allowed states to leave unused portions of their river allocations in the reservoir. Under the previous use-it-or-lose-it rules, states had to take their full allocation every year.

The 2007 framework specified that the Department of the Interior would declare a shortage when Lake Mead’s elevation hit 1,075 feet. Nevada and Arizona, which have rights junior to California, would then start delivery reductions.

Under the proposed drought contingency plan, Arizona and Nevada would continue to take the first cuts, which would be deeper than outlined in 2007. At the same time, California would reduce its river diversions when Mead levels hit 1,045 feet — earlier in the shortage than previously envisioned.

California’s cuts, shared by Imperial and Metropolitan, would increase as the lake level dropped but be no greater than 350,000 acre-feet a year.

Arizona is still working out the details of how to apportion its cuts among in-state users. And the lower-basin water districts have yet to approve the drought plan, which parties are hoping to finalize by December.

“I’ve got my own people asking tough questions. But I believe we can do it,” Metropolitan’s Kightlinger said.

A drought plan will not end debate among lower-basin users, who are confronting the fact that their use is outstripping the long-term supply.

“It’s not sustainable,” Kightlinger said. “We have to push it down or grow supply” with other sources.

The complete article by Betine Boxall can be read here.

Assemblymember Eduardo Garcia’s Geothermal Energy Proposal Prevails in Senate Appropriations

Sacramento, California – Thursday, in the midst of fevered policy discussions surrounding the fate of California’s clean energy future, Assemblymember Eduardo Garcia successfully advanced AB 893, his proposal supporting geothermal, out of the Senate Committee on Appropriations. The geothermal procurement mandated in this measure is of immense significance to the Riverside and Imperial County communities in Garcia’s district.

“Areas surrounding the Salton Sea are uniquely ripe for renewable energy development, geothermal being chief among them,” stated Assemblymember Eduardo Garcia. “Despite the increased reliability of geothermal, these

The Hudson Ranch geothermal facility

resources have been greatly neglected in energy conversations. I introduced AB 893, to make sure that this tremendous regional opportunity is no longer overlooked and can be integrated into California’s overall energy efforts. In addition to helping diversify our renewable energy portfolio, the inclusion of geothermal would unlock many economic as well as public health co-benefits for underserved areas like ours.”

Read the complete article here:  Assemblymember Eduardo Garcia’s Geothermal Energy Proposal Prevails in Senate Appropriations

Not by much: Colorado River system to stay out of shortfall status through 2019

The following excerpt  is from the Arizona Department of Water Resources. You can read the complete article here.

Not by much: Colorado River system to stay out of shortfall status through 2019

As news reports have indicated, the “August 2018 24-Month Study” of the Colorado River system, released Wednesday by the Bureau of Reclamation, tells at least two big water stories for the Southwest.

For one, it illustrates that the Lower Basin will not be in a shortage for 2019. According to the Bureau’s “most likely” scenario, Lake Mead will finish 2018 about four and a half feet above the “shortage declaration” cutoff, which is 1,075 feet in elevation.

A shortage declaration would trigger a set of criteria in the 2007 interim guidelines calling for Arizona’s deliveries of Colorado River water to be reduced by 320,000 acre-feet.

In addition to those anticipated conditions – inspired, largely, by decades of drought and a chronic structural deficit in annual Lower Basin deliveries – the 2018 August study tells us much about the complex relationship between the system’s two great reservoirs, Lake Powell and Lake Mead.

Continue reading the article here.

 

 

Water You Talking About?

Water You Talking About? Climate change is worsening water woes across the world, and these complex problems require solutions that cross borders and go beyond politics. Quartz and the Texas Observer are partnering on a nine-part series, Shallow Waters, that examines how the US and Mexico are working together to confront controversial water issues along the border, sometimes overcoming and sometimes succumbing to political tensions. The first story introduces two key American and Mexican negotiators, and their counterparts in the Middle East who face a similar struggle to cooperate over shared resources. (Introduction; First story: Quartz or Texas Observer)

Voters Favor New Water Bond.

Voters Favor New Water Bond.

One of the most surprising findings in the July PPIC survey is the strong support for an $8.9 billion state water bond among California likely voters (58%). Support for the bond―Proposition 3 on the November ballot―comes close on the heels of California voters passing a $4.1 billion state water and parks bond in June. What’s going on?

Majorities of California likely voters across partisan and demographic groups and the state’s regions say that water supply is a big problem in their part of California. Water supply and drought were the number one environmental problem named by likely voters in the survey (24%). Since Governor Brown took office in 2011, water supply and drought have been among the top environmental issues named by likely voters, and since 2014, together they have been named the most important environmental issue facing the state.

Voters Favor New Water Bond. What Are They Missing? – Public Policy Institute of California