Wednesday, January 6, 2016

USA, California: Important Meeting Hears How Geothermal Energy Projects Can Help Pay for Salton Sea Restoration

IID presses California to pay for Salton Sea fixes (The Desert Sun)

There's been a lot of progress at the Salton Sea in the last year, but local officials and activists aren't taking anything for granted.

In what's becoming a regular ritual, representatives from the Imperial Irrigation District and other groups trekked to Sacramento on Tuesday to make the case for action on the Salton Sea. They urged state officials to fulfill their promise to pay for fixes at California's largest lake, and to support geothermal energy development, which many see as critical to generating restoration funds.

The State Water Resources Control Board hosted a workshop Tuesday in response to a petition from the Imperial Irrigation District. The petition threatens to cut off promised water transfers to the Coachella Valley and San Diego County if the state doesn't live up to its decade-old promise to restore the Salton Sea — a threat that observers credit with sparking a flurry of action over the last year.

Sarah Friedman, a senior representative at the Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal campaign, said that more development of geothermal energy can help provide revenue to help pay for restoration. While geothermal has higher up-front costs than wind and solar, she said, it also has major benefits, including the possibility of aiding Salton Sea restoration. Geothermal could also help California avoid the need for polluting gas-fired power plants, which often supplement intermittent wind and solar farms.

The public utilities commission, Friedman said, needs to do a better job of calculating geothermal's benefits. "There’s a huge opportunity for geothermal at the Salton Sea…but we’re really going to need further action from the state to make it happen," she said.