McCann: McSally’s bill to restart the Yuma Desalting Plant “nothing more than a PR stunt” Posted by jfleck on 10 August 2020, 12:36 pm From the comments, but worth elevating to a post so folks it doesn’t get lost – Tom McCann on Arizona Sen. Martha McSally’s bill to restart the Yuma Desalting Plant: McSally’s bill is nothing more than a PR stunt–a way to appear to be doing something on the Colorado River without any risk of it actually happening. If she had talked to anyone knowledgeable about the Yuma Desalting Plant (doubtful), she would know that the plant cannot be operated without extensive repairs and capital improvements, which Reclamation estimated nearly a decade ago would cost anywhere from $160-450 million, plus another $25-40 million in annual operating costs. That’s never going to happen. The YDP, as originally designed and intended, is dead. But there are other, far less expensive ways to satisfy the US obligations under the 1974 Salinity Control Act and Minute 242, conserve water in Lake Mead AND preserve the environmental values of the Cienega. In 2013 we described one such alternative: construct a pipeline to transport the 100KAF Wellton-Mohawk drain water to Imperial Dam where it would be mixed with roughly 6MAF of Colorado River water that passes that point every year, eliminating the need to release an additional 100KAF from Mead every year. At the same time, the US could increase pumping from the 242 well field and dedicate 50 KAF/yr of that water to the Cienega. The total cost of that alternative was estimated at around $100 million, which would be funded by non-federal parties in return for ICS credit, with an annual operating cost of about $4 million–less than Reclamation spends today to NOT operate the YDP. Unfortunately the proposal never got any traction because entities that take their Colorado River water from Imperial Dam objected to the 20-30 ppm expected increase in salinity there, despite the fact that (1) 20-30 ppm is within the normal variation of salinity at Imperial and (2) the salinity at Imperial today is far less than it was in the past (less than 700 ppm in recent years), largely through the work of the Title 2 Salinity Control Program to which those water users do not contribute.