Funding Salton Sea Restoration
Funding Salton Sea Restoration

Obama announces new funding from multiple partners for Salton Sea restoration

The imperiled Salton Sea received good news on Thursday — a series of funds, actions and partnerships were announced — aimed at partial restoration of California’s largest lake. President Obama, speaking at the 20th annual Lake Tahoe Summit on the lake’s southern shore, unveiled plans to stimulate collaborations and innovation in support of the Salton Sea.

“We’re going to reverse the deterioration of the Salton Sea before it’s too late, and that’s going to help a lot of folks all across the West,” Obama told some 9,000 people in attendance at Harvey’s Outdoor Arena in Stateline, Nev.

Although California’s Gov. Jerry Brown has set aside $80.5 million in his 2016-2017 budget to aid in habitat restoration and to quash the rolling plumes of dust at the lake, more funds are urgently needed to conserve the critical wildlife habitats at the lake and to forestall further public health issues. Currently, children who live near the Salton Sea have the highest asthma hospitalization rates in the state.

Announced at Wednesday’s summit were the Department of Agriculture’s (DOA) Natural Resources Conservation Service’s partnership agreements that are being finalized with the Sierra Valley Conservation Planning Program and the Salton Sea Authority. Totaling more than $17 million, these funds will be used for innovative partnerships that will help spur critical air, water and wildlife habitat conservation planning for the Sierra Valley and the Salton Sea. These partners are proposing additional contributions of another $60 million, thereby tripling the federal government’s initial investment.

Additionally, the Department of Energy (DOE) announced up to $29 million for two projects of the innovative Frontier Observatory for Research in Geothermal Energy (FORGE). Sandia National Laboratories’ Fallon, NV site and the University of Utah’s site in Milford, UT were selected after a competitive first research phase to conduct research on enhanced geothermal systems (EGS). The FORGE filed lab could unlock homegrown, geographically diverse and carbon-free sources of clean energy. Further development by this research could help improve the technical and economic feasibility of geothermal energy in the Salton Sea area which includes untapped geothermal energy potential.

Funding also unveiled on Wednesday was a $10 million goal with the Water Funder Initiative Foundations. The Water Funder Initiative (WFI) is a collaborative of leading philanthropic foundations to support the implementation of a comprehensive plan for the Salton Sea to protect public health and the environment, enhance drought resistance and promote renewable energy and restoration. Foundation include the S.D. Bechtel, Jr. Foundation, the Energy Foundation, the Rockefeller Foundation, the Walton Family Foundation, The Cynthia and George Mitchell Foundation, and The Water Foundation. Literature from the WFI indicates that funding could include loan guarantees, civil society support, private sector engagement, economic diversification programs, and other initiatives that benefit wildlife habitats and local communities.

Partnerships that have been established for Salton Sea restoration include an effort to accelerate conservation at the lake by the state of California and the Department of the Interior (DOI) pertinent to the role the Colorado River has in providing water security of California. Efforts are also underway to advance the collaboration on renewable energy development in the Imperial Valley/Salton Sea region by the DOE’s Federal Energy Management Program (FEMP). The DOE will also be leading a first-ever forum on the Salton Sea with the state of California and the Geothermal Resources Council in October.

Following President Obama’s speech outlining the new funds and initiatives for the Salton Sea, Deputy Secretary of the Interior Michael Connor and the state of California’s Natural Resources Secretary John Laird signed a Memo of Understanding to strengthen coordination of management activities to benefit the Salton Sea, boost the region’s climate resilience, spur the region’s economic growth and improve public health.

“Our partnership at the Salton Sea will bring real benefits to this vital California resource and provide stability for surrounding communities,” said Connor. “The federal government will continue to work with our partners on our shared interests by identifying innovative approaches to help the state find a path forward for a sustainable Salton Sea.”

Laird commented, “We welcome the commitments and investments from the federal government to augment the significant resources and state investments we are making…to help avert an environmental and public health crisis at the Salton Sea. Today’s agreement between the state and the U.S. Department of Interior moves us closer to the level of investment and participation it will take to protect public health and the ecological values threatened by a receding Salton Sea.”

Check Also

Reclamation accepting applications for aging infrastructure funding from Infrastructure Law

Wastewater treatment facility receives funding for improvements

The Calaveras County Water District (CCWD) secured $11.2 million from the Army Corps of Engineers …

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *