Imperial Valley Press, 2-25-16
Jennings and Johnson partnership and members of the Cucapah tribe from Mexicali addressed the Long Range Plan Committee from the California Natural Resources Agency to urge the committee to take the Sea to Sea concept into consideration for the long term Salton Sea Restoration plan.
Gary Jennings founding partner of Jennings and Johnson Partnership gave a presentation to the committee on Wednesday to make them aware of the two options his team identified to bring 1 million acre-feet of water a year from the Sea of Cortez.
Jennings brought members of the Cucapah tribal community to allow members of the committee to ask them questions and to show their willingness to work together and support for the Sea to Sea concept in person.
The longer route proposal for the pipeline goes through the west of Mount Signal through the desert up to the Salton Sea, the shorter options would have the pipeline go through Mount Signal and follow the stream of the New River north to the sea.
The cost of the project according to Jennings would be about $1 billion. Despite the high cost of the project he told the committee that that amount is not much compared to the potential irreversible economic effect the emissive dust can generate in Imperial and Riverside counties.
“It’s not a horrendous cost considering what is at stake. Not dealing with the exposed lakebed will be the easiest way to wreck the economy of both counties,” Jennings said. “Let’s design and work on a solution that we can afford.”
Jennings suggested that in order to pay for it they can ask the state to use part of the money that the two counties pay for sales taxes to be invested in the program or they can ask the California Public Utilities Commission to implement a Community Benefit Charge on the local customers’ bills to fund it.
Jennings said that if the Community Benefit Charge each customer would pay an average of $2.78 per month for three years to finance the project if the state doesn’t cooperate.
In order to get the project done the pipeline would have to be built on land owned by the Cucapah tribe around the Laguna Salada area.
President of the Cucapah Community Board of Directors Juana Aguilar Gonzalez told the board that her community is willing to work closely with the local and state officials to get the project done.
“We are really interested in the project, we are concerned about the emissive toxic dust from the Salton Sea which is also affecting the Mexicali Valley,” She told the committee. “We are willing to work together and to directly participate to save the Salton Sea.”
Imperial County Supervisors John Renison and Michael Kelley also offered their support for the sea to sea concept.
“It is excitement to see the interest in this concept,” Kelley said. “I would ask you to really consider the Sea to Sea concept. That is the way to do it. It is vital and it is the only absolute long-term solution for the Salton Sea.”
Jennings said that the most complex part of the process is the vast amount of permits needed in both countries to begin construction.
In order to get started the State of California would have to pay $1.3 million to fund the permits and conduct first level engineering. Jennings estimates that it could take two years to get all the necessary permits needed and one to two additional years for construction depending of the option that the state goes with.
“We’re honored to do this, we think is good for Imperial, and good for Mexico,” Jennings said.