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Imperial County Approves Funding for Community Engagement Efforts To Five Local Organizations

-Editorial

The Imperial County Board of Supervisors approved an agreement for services with five organizations for services to conduct community engagements and outreach efforts on the Salton Sea Renewable Resource Specific Plan. Despite being approved unanimously, many questioned how the selection process was made and why other organizations were left out.

The agencies that will receive funding are Los Amigos de la Comunidad-$89,000; Raizes-$72,000; Comité Cívico Del Valle-$363,000; IV LGBT Resource Center-$26,000; and IV Equity and Justice Coalition-$170,000. 

Brawley Chamber of Commerce CEO Ramiro Urias said that these organizations will do a good job but questioned the lack of involvement from the business community and invited the board to open this to other groups. 

Rachel Magos, executive director of the Imperial County Farm Bureau, said that it is important to have the agricultural community in these discussions now that lithium will become big shortly.

“It is important for agriculture and lithium to coexist and discuss water and land use moving forward,” Magos said. “We want to succeed and have one Lithium Valley.” 

El Centro resident Peter Rodriguez asked the board to table this item and asked the Board and the Imperial Irrigation District to work together. 

“You have to be united across the board, business, agriculture, and be fair across the board,” Rodriguez said. “I want Lithium Valley to succeed but we can’t if the major players of the game are fighting with each other. We need to be a team.”

On June 30, 2022, Governor Gavin Newsom signed into law Senate Bill 125 authorizing the state to assist in the development of Imperial County’s lithium resource in an area that is a part of the Salton Sea Known Geothermal Resource Area, known as Lithium Valley. Among other provisions of SB 125, the bill appropriated $5,000,000 from the State General Fund to the County of Imperial for various lithium-related activities, including, but not limited to, funding to develop a Programmatic Environmental Impact Report (PEIR) and to distribute grants to local community-based organizations to conduct engagement on the PEIR.

On July 26, 2022, per Minute Order #17, the County agreed with Dude Consulting, Inc. to prepare the Salton Sea Renewable Resource Specific Plan, PEIR, and the Lithium Development Infrastructure Assessment. Therefore, the County seeks to support community-based education, engagement, participatory research, and outreach efforts on the Salton Sea Renewable Resource Specific Plan and the PEIR created by the County for the lithium and geothermal energy development efforts in Imperial County. Community-Based Organizations (*CBO*) are trusted messengers and will be critical to success in ensuring the local community is engaged and informed.

This engagement aims to encourage meaningful public input and involvement in the process to better inform the evaluation of the environmental impacts and lead agency decision-making resulting from proposed projects in the specified development area. A framework based on principles that respect the right of all community members to be informed, consulted, involved, and empowered drives engagement.

A selection committee appointed by the County Executive Office reviewed and scored the proposals to provide a recommendation for the responsive and responsible organizations, whose proposal was deemed most advantageous to the County per the evaluation criteria outlined in the Request for Proposals.

The five bidding organizations scored closely in the eight categories and hold unique advantages to ensure the local community is engaged.

The total amount allocated from Senate Bill 125 for this program is $800,000. The County is withholding ten percent for tribal engagements and contingencies. The total amount of award to the organizations is not to exceed $720,000.

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