JOHNNY FLORES/Coachella Uninc
MECCA — Sustainability. It’s a word that often comes up when discussing the Salton Sea, but what does sustainability truly mean?
On Saturday, May 24, environmental leaders and residents gathered at Second Annual Environmental Health Summit to learn about the sustainability plan being proposed by the Imperial Irrigation District (IID), as well as many other environmental issues.
Bruce Wilcox, environmental manager at IID, presented the Salton Sea Restoration and Renewable Energy Initiative at the event organized by Comité Civico del Valle and Promotores Comunitarios del Desierto (PCD).
This initiative seeks to develop over 1,500 megawatts of geothermal energy with solar, wind and biofuel projects to follow in phases following the initial geothermal project. According to IID’s website, the Salton Sea possesses the largest capacity of geothermal energy in the nation. The agency believes the initiative would allow for the development of new jobs and economic development.
“IID has a network of air quality monitors around the Salton Sea. Since IID spans both sides of the sea, it pretty much does what AQMD and APCD do in Riverside and Imperial counties,” said Eduardo Guevara, executive director of PCD. “They have information we need them to share.”
The Salton Sea was formed in 1905 when a massive flood caused the Colorado River to burst through an irrigation canal and flow freely into what was then known as the Salton Basin for 18 months. It is a closed basin in order to prevent drainage, however, in turn it allows the build up of salt. Currently, the Salton Sea is sustained by agricultural water inflow from the various agricultural locations within the Imperial, Coachella and Mexicali Valleys.
However, while the Salton Sea is being sustained by the inflow of water, it is also evaporating at the same time. Wilcox says the Salton Sea can be a site for renewable and sustainable energy that can power over thousands of homes and businesses. This is where IID’s plan would come in.
It is important to note, however, that at the end of 2017 the mandatory mitigation of water inflow will cease. This will worsen the water quality and air pollution problems that are already prevalent. Year by year, the sea’s underbed will be exposed which will expose the various pesticides, salts, and fertilizers that make up the water inside the sea. Therefore, fine dust and toxins will become more airborne than what they already are, thus endangering the health of the public, the local economy, and the various agricultural fields that make up the local economy.
The IID initiative would create a renewable energy source in the Salton Sea, which would, in turn, restore the sea to a smaller but more sustainable source.
While most of this requires constant mitigation and deliberation by agencies and environmental leaders, the residents of the Eastern Coachella Valley can aid in the effort to sustain the health, sea, and economy of the region. By attending meetings and summits, residents can show that there is an interest and overwhelming support in such causes.
“Ask, demand and be present,” urges Guevara. “Leaders are nothing without the people backing them up. They need to start demanding solutions and making elected officials accountable.”
View more photos from the Environmental Summit.
Learn more about IID’s Salton Sea Restoration and Renewable Energy Initiative.