Discussion about agreements with San Diego’s power utility and a solar developer evolved into the state vs. the Imperial Irrigation District.
Yet when the final vote came, the local utility agreed to work with San Diego Gas & Electric and allow the CSolar South development to cross the IID’s canal in order to keep development going near Calexico.
IID’s Board of Directors voted 3-1 to approve a memorandum of understanding to work with SDG&E on solar projects that want to connect directly to the Sunrise Powerlink, bypassing IID’s transmission system. Minutes later, the board continued the momentum, approving again with a 3-1 vote to allow one of the projects in the area near Mt. Signal to cross its canal.
In the past, concerns have been brought up about whether the district would cede part of its balancing authority to the California Independent System Operator as part of the improvements needed near the Imperial Valley Substation would be operated by the state. However, consulting lawyer Bill Kissinger told the board while speaking about the memorandum with SDG&E that the goal of the memorandum is to limit the area where the transmission lines can go and thus limit encroachment into IID’s territory.
The renewable energy projects, many of which have signed purchase power agreements, are between “a rock and a hard place,” Kissinger said. If the district tells them they can’t cross the canals without connecting to the IID’s system, “many if not all of those projects would have to start all over again.”
The projects are for the benefit of the county, added attorney David Nahai.
“Let’s face it,” he told the board. “They’ve been through the county process. They have PPAs (purchase power agreements). If not for the Westside Main Canal we wouldn’t have the right to stop them.”
The district has to decide whether to stop the development or control how it moves forward, he said.
Some were batting around how it could improve the relationship between the local district and the state, but board members were quick to shoot that down.
Director Stella Mendoza said that she thinks the state has abandoned this area, considering what little action has been taken to start restoration of the Salton Sea.
Director Anthony Sanchez echoed those thoughts, saying that if the board doesn’t agree it’s going against the state, but it also impacts development in the county. The jobs and green energy would be a benefit locally.
While that was taken into consideration, Director Jim Hanks, the lone vote against both items, said that had the IID had an economic energy transportation rate it may not have been in this situation. He asked what other projects will have to bypass the local system to get purchase-power agreements.
“The battle that we’re assuming out here — and I call it a battle — it’s not prevention, it’s containment,” he said. “How do we approve these projects that have spent millions of dollars to move their projects forward, in permits and so forth, for the benefit of state of California and San Diego? There’s not one penny that’s going to IID to help our ratepayers.”
At some point the locals are going to have to stand up and go to the state calling foul, he said. The state has given up in Imperial County, resigned to say locals shouldn’t have a decent living, wages or the benefits that other residents of California have.
This is just the beginning of developers moving to bypass the local utility district and not having to pay to use and upgrade the local lines, he added.
Staff Writer Elizabeth Varin can be reached at email@example.com or 760-337-3441.
Here are five things that happened at Tuesday’s Imperial Irrigation District Board of Directors meeting.
1 Though more discussion is set to take place, district staff presented an amendment to an agreement with the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power that would allow the agencies to explore geothermal development near the Salton Sea. Geothermal developers, though, cautioned the board about taking that step.
2 The service agreement with New Mexico water and environmental attorney Charles T. DuMars has been amended, increasing the payment $462,000 to include working on a petition to the State Water Resources Control Board that would sell Salton Sea mitigation water and use the revenue to put in projects at the sea.
3 The district held a workshop to go over its wholesale transmission economic development rate, which is set to go before the board for information at its next meeting, and then a vote after that.
4 The board approved changes to the ethics policy that puts in stronger language to increase the protection for whistleblowers.
5 The district presented checks ranging from $1,000 to $40,900 to school districts throughout the Imperial Valley, . The checks, presented for the second year, are sent to the school districts in-lieu of taxes that IID doesn’t pay because of its nonprofit status.
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