Scoping the Channel

By Dr. Abe Beagles
December 2007

The Author is the Director of Research at Cal-Neva Water Quality Research Institute, Inc. in Newcastle, California. Co-Authors: Dan Cooper, Walter Eason President/CEO of NORC

The Environmental Effects of the Plasma Incubator Reactor Desalination System when applied to the Sea of Cortez to the Salton Sea Desalination and shipping channel project of Southern California.
To scope a proposed project is to, preliminarily, identify and consider what impacts (negative and positive) it may have upon the environment. Scoping is, by no means, either an exhaustive study or a complete list of potential impacts.
The Channel Project
The Channel is a proposed project, a canal actually, proposed to be built from the Sea of Cortez, Mexico, to, and as far as, Palm Springs, California. It is called a channel, instead of a canal, because that is the legal definition for such a project.

Purposes of the Channel

The Channel was initially proposed as a military project, throughout the 20’s and 30’s. This proposal has never been abandoned for all of the U.S. Naval Reserves, along the original route, still exist. In 1968 it was proposed, primarily, as a transportation, (a shipping), corridor. In 2001, yet another purpose was proposed; to provide seawater to the Salton Sea. In that proposal, seawater was to replace fresh water, distributed from the Colorado River, and the replaced fresh water was to be redirected to other more beneficial uses; other than to stabilize the level of the Salton Sea. More recently, though, on August 18, 2005, the National Outdoor Recreation Council, (NORC), proposed several more purposes; large scale -- desalination, power generation, and environmental restoration. These additions were made possible because of new and revolutionary desalination process that allows seawater to be utilized to produce first, fresh potable water. This is accomplished in an enclave or closed and pressurized container. The destruction of a water molecule produces at least two prominent gases, these are Oxygen, which is the heavier of the two, and Hydrogen, which is the lightest, and rises to the top of the enclave. From there a special extraction process removes a continuous flow of Hydrogen. This is pumped through a network of tubes to a second container where another new technology known as the Bubble Gen Electric Generation system produces electricity with the help of a new Permanent Magnet that was developed in Europe and is ten times as powerful as any known magnet today. This technology produces enough electricity to operate the entire Plasma System. In addition, the Hydrogen is saved as a usable product for future use.

The Channel coming out of the Sea Of Cortez will be one mile wide and over 200 feet deep. This width and depth will be maintained up to the El Centro Harbor, which will be half in the US and half in Mexico. It will be approximately two miles in diameter to allow large ocean going container ships to maneuver, to dock, and off load cargo in this area. Interstate 8 runs through this area and access to shipping routes will be of prime importance. Along the two miles on either side of the channel on the Mexican side, which is being reserved for the development of industrial and commercial business, there is expected to me a migration of manufacturing businesses needing access to better shipping routes than can be obtained within the interior of Mexico. Another user of the channel will be the cruise line companies who will be able to bring their ships all the way up the channel to the area around Indio and Palm Springs California where their compliment of passengers will be able to disembark and go to the Indian Casinos of this area. It is anticipated that a few cruise lines will utilize this area as a starting point for cruises into the Pacific. Interstate 10 passes through this area and container ships are anticipated to utilize the Harbor located in the Indio Area to offload cargo which will open up the area for more jobs and will relieve the pressure currently being experienced at ports along the west coast of California.

State of the Environment

To understand the Channel’s restoration purpose, it is important to know a few things concerning the state of the environment today.

Destruction of the Sediment Transport System in California

There are more than 5000 (on stream) dams in California;( source-Dept of Water Resources) mostly, in the northern portion of the State. Dams are used, primarily, to create reservoirs for the storage of rain water which, in turn, allows for a constant distribution of fresh water throughout the year. 75 percent of all of the captured rain water in Northern California is distributed to Southern California. Just less than one third of rain water consists of sediment. Before dams were built, that sediment reached the Pacific Ocean. Ocean currents, along the coast, would take most of it away. The remaining portion stabilized as beaches. Because dams block sediment from reaching the Pacific Ocean, ocean currents now wash the beaches away. In addition, dams cause sediment, along streams and rivers, to compact. These are the reasons that (on stream) dams are attributed for causing as much as a 95 percent destruction of riparian and coastal habitats. 80 percent of all threatened and endangered species inhabit riparian, which include coastal areas.

Destruction of the Sediment Transport System in the Colorado River Basin

Dams in the Colorado River Basin are also on stream. They prevent sediment, including necessary nutrients from reaching the Sea of Cortez. They also cause sediment, along streams and rivers, to compact. These are the reasons that (on stream) dams, in the Colorado River Basin, are attributed for causing as much as a 95 percent destruction of riparian habitats and the habitat of the Colorado River Delta.

Destruction of Springs

Californians take their water from two sources; rain and underground storage basins (underground lakes). Springs occur where storage basins spill out on the surface. Wells are used to take water from storage basins. Before wells were drilled, and over millions of years, each storage basin filled to capacity. When a storage basin is reduced below its capacity, it causes all the springs above the current level of the water to dry up. Most of California, especially Southern California, is a desert. In a desert, most species rely upon springs for water. Most storage basins, in California, have been reduced to below 10 percent of capacity. This is why the reduction of storage basins, throughout California, is attributed for causing as much as 90 percent destruction of non-riparian habitat. 20 percent of all threatened and endangered species inhabit non-riparian areas.

Destruction of the Colorado River Delta and Sea of Cortez

Today, almost all of the water in the Colorado River never reaches the Sea of Cortez; whereas, as much as 5 million acre feet per year did. Not only has this caused the Colorado River Delta (the Cienega de Santa Clara) to dry up but, it has also decimated the Sea of Cortez that once thrived upon the nutrients which were deposited into it from the Colorado River.

Destruction of the Salton Sea and Surrounding Farm Land

All of the water that reaches the Salton Sea comes from the Colorado River, after it irrigates the surrounding farm land. Due to the reliance upon mineralized fertilizers, in the Colorado River Basin, that water has become too salty. Now, the Colorado River water, irrigating the Imperial Valley farm lands, deposits so much salt that it must be removed, periodically. This is done by washing (syringing) the fields. Two times the amount of water needed to irrigate those fields is necessary to syringe them; and, all of that salt is washed into the Salton Sea. This has made the Salton Sea three times saltier than the ocean. As time goes on, even syringing won’t save those fields. They will, eventually, become un-farmable if they continue to be irrigated by untreated Colorado River water.

The Salton Sea is polluted by more than salt, however. The New and the Alamo Rivers, which run South to North, have been and continue to deposit hazardous waste into the Salton Sea. This waste is dumped into these Rivers by industry along those Rivers in Mexico.

Current Rain Water Demand Beyond Supply

It is hard to imagine how demand for rain water can be beyond its supply; but, it is. California takes 800,000 acre feet per year from the Colorado River allotments, allotted to Nevada and Arizona. Nevada and Arizona sued California for their water allotment back. California agreed, in the Quantification Settlement Agreement of 2003, to give most of it back; but, with the understanding that it would do so by cutting off what still goes to the Salton Sea.

California is not the only State that has overdrawn its allotment from the Colorado River. Actually, all the Colorado River Basin States are taking 300,000 acre feet per year from Mexico. Worse, is that the quality of water that is permitted to reach Mexico, via the Colorado River, is below par, to say the least.

Future Fresh Water Demand Beyond Supply

California, as well as the other Western States, has already exceeded their available rain water supply and, yet, population continues to grow. In addition, global warming, though debatable, may cause as much as another 20 percent increase in demand beyond supply. More dams and reservoirs are being proposed but, if they are built, will only further optimize what little rainwater there is. Thus, future fresh water supply, to meet this growth and increased demand, cannot come from rain. Nor, can it come from storage basins, either. Remember, they have already been depleted. It can either come from Canada or the Pacific Ocean. After more than 50 years of negotiations, Canada still won’t sell us water. Thus, it must come from the Pacific Ocean. Assuming that the technology for large scale desalination is available, the only remaining questions are, how much and, from where.

How much desalinated water must be produced can be calculated. NORC, in their Petition, (published on August 18, 2005), calculated that Southern California will need as much as 93 million acre feet per year of desalinated water. If the other nearby Western States buy desalinated water from California, the demand could increase to as much as 300 million acre feet per year, or more; (93 maf/yr + 207 maf/yr = 300 maf/yr).

Necessary Environmental Restoration

To restore as much as 95 percent of riparian habitat, it is necessary to remove all (on stream) dams.
To restore as much as 90 percent of non-riparian habitat, it is necessary to refill all storage basins to their capacity; and, to keep them filled.

Storage Basin Restoration

It is not enough to simply refill the storage basins to their capacities. As long as there are wells, they must be refilled, over and over again.

Effect of (On Stream) Dam Removal

An on stream dam cannot be removed unless the water it supplies is replaced; and, by another source, other than by a reservoir with an on stream dam. Remember, dams allow Northern California to distribute 75 percent of its rain water to Southern California. They also generate a good percentage of electricity. Removal would mean the reduction of most of the water supply to Southern California and a significant reduction of electricity, as well.

Disadvantages of Traditional Desalination Methods

In the past, desalination has been kept small scale for four reasons; coastal real estate is very expensive, entrainment, high consumption of electricity, and discharge of brine.
Traditional desalination facilities all cause entrainment. Entrainment occurs when a large amount of seawater is sucked through a, relatively, small pipe so fast that sea life cannot escape its flow.

Traditional desalination facilities do not produce power, of any sort. However, they consume a lot of power; they save in infrastructure costs; as compared to the distribution system of water from reservoirs and their dams. Comparatively speaking, though, they are still more expensive than the system of distributing water from reservoirs and their dams.

Traditional desalination facilities discharge a slurry of brine. This is because it is too costly to completely dry what is left after desalination. That brine is, normally, piped where it can be diluted and then, again, where it can be released into the ocean.

Advantages of Modern Desalination Methods Over Traditional Methods

Methods of desalination exists, today, which yield both a larger return of fresh water, (as much as 98 percent as opposed to 50 percent), and a usable alternative fuel; mostly, hydrogen mixed with some oxygen. They also completely dry the solids left after desalination. This is a system that has been developed by Cal-Neva Water Quality Research Institute. This research has been under the direction of Dr. Gerry Abe Beagles the Director of Research.

Advantages of Channel Desalination

Desalination, from a channel, differs tremendously from traditional desalination. It allows us to eliminate entrainment, altogether. Because the channel, itself, is the main inlet pipe, it allows us to reduce the flow, where necessary, below the speed which would entrain sea life.

More importantly, though, a channel allows us to generate renewable electricity, at least, in an amount sufficient to drive all the desalination plants along its route. If a hydrogen/oxygen alternative fuel is the by-product of the method of desalination employed then, not only will a huge excess of renewable electricity be generated but, a huge amount of hydrogen/oxygen will be produced, as well.

Impacts Specific to the Proposed Channel, Previously Addressed

Canals, in general, sea going and fresh water, are not new. The current distribution of rainwater, from Northern California and the Colorado River, is accomplished by canals. As for seawater canals, most people are somewhat familiar with the Panama Canal and the Suez Canal.

As for the proposed Channel, it is not altogether new, either. Engineered plans, for the proposed Channel, have been drawn up since the 20’s. The most recent set of engineered plans, submitted for public review, were drawn up in 1968. That set of engineered plans was rejected, primarily, because the developers refused to tile it. Tiling, placing piping underneath the Channel, is necessary to drain away any seawater that leaks through. More recent engineered plans have been drawn up but, they have not been submitted for public review. It is presumed that tiling was included as would be for any future engineered plans.

Impacts Specific to the Proposed Channel, NOT Previously Addressed

Desalination has never been included in any prior set of engineered plans for the Channel. The primary environmental concern, with large scale desalination, is how the solids will be discarded. If it is discarded as a slurry of brine, it can be piped where it can be diluted and then, again, where it can be released. The release of brine would occur where ocean currents would further dilute and distribute it. Over time, this method of discarding solids may become an environmental problem, though. If the solids discarded are left dry, however, they can be used as fill. As fill, those solids would serve a useful purpose and not become an environmental problem.

Environmental Restoration of the Channel

The Channel will be designed to reduce all of its direct negative environmental impacts to insignificance. The Channel will allow for tremendous indirect positive environmental impacts.

Desalinated Water Supply

The amount of desalinated water, to be produced by the Channel, will allow on stream dams to be removed and storage basins to be filled. Assuming that all on stream dams are removed, in California and the other Western States, as much as 95 percent of the riparian habitats in those States will be restored which, in turn, will allow for as much as 75 percent of threatened and endangered species in those States to be recovered; i.e. removed from the threatened and endangered species list. Assuming that all storage basins are filled to capacity, in California and the other Western States, as much as 90 percent of the non-riparian habitats in those States will be restored which, in turn, will allow for as much as 15 percent of the remaining threatened and endangered species in those States to be recovered. Desalinated water, produced by the Channel, could recover as much as 90 percent of all threatened and endangered species in California and the other Western States.

Renewable Electricity Supply

The Channel will produce as much electricity, if not more, than will be required to desalinate all the water demanded of it. This electricity is not only renewable but, will not produce any green house gases. If the method of desalination employed produces a hydrogen/oxygen mix, much more of this renewable, clean, electricity will be produced than is needed to desalinate all the water demanded of it. It will be more than enough to support any development which the Channel may cause.

Hydrogen/Oxygen Mix Supply

If the method of desalination employed produces a by-product hydrogen/oxygen mix, and the Channel produces as much as 300 maf/yr of desalinated water, the Channel could produce a by-product of as much as 6 maf/yr of that hydrogen/oxygen mix. A hydrogen vehicle consumes, on average, 5,700 liters (1,505.8 gallons) of gaseous hydrogen per year. Even if only two thirds of the hydrogen/oxygen mix which could be produced from the Channel is processed as usable hydrogen for hydrogen vehicles, (4 maf/yr), it would still be enough to run 865.6 million vehicles, all year every year. Needless to say, this would shatter the Phase 3, (year 2020), goals of the May 2005 California Hydrogen Blueprint Plan, (20,700 vehicles, of all types), and the goals of the latest, (2007), Federal Fuel Economy Standards for the year 2019 and beyond. In fact, the Channel would produce 27.5 times more hydrogen than is necessary to run the 31.5 million vehicles that 45.5 million Californians are expected to operate by 2020. The extra hydrogen can be exported or turned into electricity which could also be exported.


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