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California Budget Proposes Millions for Lithium Development and Education in Imperial County

-Editorial

Imperial County and San Diego State University hit the jackpot with the May revision of the California State budget where there is a significant investment for lithium development and the expansion of the Brawley campus. 

Governor Gavin Newsom unveiled California’s $300.6 billion budget proposal for the Fiscal Year 2022-2023. The May revision provides significant funding and support to accelerate development by streamlining geothermal permitting; supports the development of geothermal energy and lithium recovery in the Salton Sea region.

“The Board of Supervisors applaud Governor Newsom and his proposed budget revisions that will bring transformational change to our Imperial County,” stated Chairman of the Board, Jesus Eduardo Escobar. “To see our governor and state legislators engage and bring about these proposals that were identified in our Lithium Valley Economic Opportunity Investment Plan (LVIP) is proof that government can work together for the betterment of the residents we all proudly serve. Your Board of Supervisors and County Administration look forward to working with our partners in Sacramento, local community leaders, officials, and organizations to equitably fulfill the promise and potential of Lithium Valley.”

The proposed budget specifically identifies $5 million to provide evaluation, community planning, and engagement to support the development of geothermal energy and lithium recovery in the Salton Sea region. An additional $45 million will also be made available over three years to incentivize projects that manufacture, process, or recover lithium through a sales and use tax exclusion. The revision also proposes $80 million to expand campus infrastructure at the San Diego State University, Brawley Center which will create pathways for residents to benefit from jobs created by the anticipated new industries. 

“We are dealing with the workforce in a way that I am excited about – working with San Diego State University. They are looking at investing in a center to develop a pathway for locals. I love this. So often, when the next gold rush comes in, it goes to the pockets of fancy folks and doesn’t go back to the community. We are trying to avoid that,” Governor Newsom said. 

SDSU President Adela De La Torre was elated to hear about the Governor’s revision and said that the future is bright for the Imperial Valley Campus. 

“Already, our university has invested toward redeveloping SDSU Imperial Valley’s existing Brawley campus to be able to support STEM labs and classrooms for our new 4-year nursing programs and expanded public health and environmental health programs. Both sectors are in incredibly high demand in Imperial Valley, which was one of the hardest-hit regions during the pandemic,” De La Torre stated. 

This will allow for a new 65,000 square foot Innovation Campus on the Brawley site to house science, technology, chemistry, engineering, and mathematics programming. The current plan calls for the development of: 

25,000 square feet to be dedicated to labs and core facilities with major instruments, and include research space to collaborate with both public and private partners.

20,000 square feet of STEM-focused classroom and teaching laboratory spaces. 

10,000 square feet of office space.

“Our first STEM program – a B.A. in Mathematics – also began in Fall 2021. A new four-year nursing program, a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN), is planned for Fall 2022,” she added. 

Added Supervisor and Lithium Valley Commission Vice-Chair, Ryan Kelley, “After years of championing and advocating for the underserved north end region of Imperial County, I am proud that our governor appears to have taken into consideration our LVIP, and am hopeful that these proposals will be an intersection of opportunity between our community, public sector, and industry.”

The LVIP was unanimously approved and adopted on February 14, 2022, and outlines a series of actions at the local, state, and federal levels to lead to economic investment, employment opportunities, and tax revenue in support of the Imperial County region.

The County of Imperial will work closely with the Governor’s office, state legislators, and local partners and stakeholders to ensure the proposed revisions remain in the final adopted state budget. The State Legislature is required to approve the FY 2022-2023 budget by June 15, 2022.

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