Calexico Chronicle / IV Weekly

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Major Development Plan Briefly Stalled by Grammar

     Economic development is a multi-million-dollar behemoth. Grammar is relative minutiae. When the two meet in a David-and-Goliath clash, of course grammar prevails.


     That happened June 4 when the Imperial County Board of Supervisors delayed for a week a key decision due to grammatical errors in its wording.   


     The county is updating a five-year planning document making it and partnering agencies eligible for millions in federal funding through the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Economic Development Administration.


     The update to the document involves three new projects, including major infrastructure connected to mineral-extraction and geothermal facilities planned for the Salton Sea area.


     The county board was to vote on adopting the updated document but delayed doing so until June 11 for copy editing.


     The plan is the effort of a consortium of public, private and nonprofit organizations to hone in on the area’s goals and needs, said Esperanza Colio-Warren, a deputy county executive officer. Known as the Overall Economic Development Commission, the group approved the updated document in February. The final step, she said, is to have the county board adopt it.


     Such updates are a federal requirement to obtain such funding, Colio-Warren added.


     In the largest of the three projects in the update, the county is requesting $2.5 million to pave a large section of McDonald Road and install turn lanes on Highway 111 in the Calipatria area near the Salton Sea.


     The road project is an obligation the county made to EnergySource LLC as part of its permit application to develop of a mineral-extraction facility at its nearby geothermal power plant.


     The proposed facility is for extraction of large quantities of lithium, zinc and manganese from the hot ground water extracted to power geothermal plants. Typically, such water is simply reinjected back into the ground after use.


     The significance of the planning document is to explain the potential good that can come from such projects, including the number of jobs, total investment dollars and other developments that might be helped by federal funding.


     In the case of the paving project, it will directly benefit EnergySource’s $350 million facility, which is estimated to create about 250 construction jobs over a two-year period and up to 50 full-time jobs when the minerals-recovery plant is built. Construction is slated for late 2019.


     Indirect beneficiaries of the project include geothermal development companies GeoGenCo and Controlled Thermal Resources (the latter of which is also developing a mineral-extraction project), and algae farm/biofuel producer Synthetic Genomics. All already have or are developing facilities in that area of the county, according to information in the draft planning document.


     GeoGenCo is expected to create five new jobs, while the Controlled Thermal Resources project is estimated to create 250 full-time jobs, the draft plan states.


     The second updated project in the planning document involves installing fiber optic cable to the Calipatria/Salton Sea area to bring broadband Internet services to the various geothermal/mineral recovery facilities being developed. The Imperial Valley Economic Development Corp. is the lead on that project and is requesting $440,000 from the Economic Development Administration.


     The third updated project involves an expansion of Pioneers Memorial Hospital in Brawley. The hospital district is seeking $3 million for a $26-million expansion project.


     Pioneers is seeking help to buy medical equipment, fixtures and materials for the construction of a 44,000-square-foot building near the hospital, the plan states. The project is expected to create more than 100 new jobs. The remaining funding is mostly from bonds taken out by Pioneers.


     Construction is expected to begin later in 2019, the plan states.


     In other action, the county board approved a funding agreement between the county Air Pollution Control District and the Calexico Unified School District for $406,480 for the paving of a bus and staff parking lot at the school district’s maintenance and operations yard.


     The project will cut dust pollution caused by the unpaved parking lots at 1085 Andrade Ave.


     Funding for the project comes from the air pollution district’s Rule 310-Operational and Development Fee account, which developers of local projects pay into for the mitigation of dust and other pollutants.

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