Friday, November 6, 2015

USA, California: Restoration Project Will Enable CalEnergy to Drill for geothermal Resources Beneath Wetlands

Salton Sea restoration gets started at Red Hill Bay (The Desert Sun)

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service broke ground Thursday on a first-of-its-kind restoration project at Red Hill Bay, on the southern shore of California's largest lake. Crews plan to cover 420 acres of exposed lakebed with water from the lake and the nearby Alamo River, creating wetland habitat for migratory birds and suppressing toxic dust that would otherwise pollute the air. The wetland project would leave space for energy companies to tap the potent geothermal reservoir beneath the ground, a top priority for local officials.

One of the trickiest parts of designing the project was making sure energy companies would still be able to tap the geothermal resources beneath the lakebed. Government officials worked closely with CalEnergy, the company that leases the below-ground mineral rights from the Imperial Irrigation District, to design "access corridors" where the company will be able to drill beneath the wetlands.

"We got with them, we rolled up our sleeves and we put together a plan that makes both things work," said Randy Keller, director of development for CalEnergy, which owns 10 of the 11 geothermal plants by the Salton Sea.

The Salton Sea is home to one of the world’s most potent geothermal reservoirs, and the Imperial Irrigation District has long seen new development as a source of royalty payments to fund long-term restoration. New geothermal plants would also suppress dust by covering exposed lakebed, not to mention contribute to California’s ambitious clean energy and climate goals.

But new geothermal plants are expensive, and only one has been built by the Salton Sea since 2000. It's unclear whether the 50 percent clean energy mandate signed by Gov. Jerry Brown last month will spark new geothermal development, as some local officials hope.

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