$980 Million-deal Sealed to Prevent Flooding of Dead Sea Hotels

Israel Chemicals will pay 3.8 billion shekels to keep in check evaporating pools at its potash operations.

Ofer Vaknin

The National Planning and Building Commission has approved a plan to regulate salt harvesting at the southern Dead Sea and prevent the flooding of hotels there.

The work, estimated to cost 3.8 billion shekels ($980 million), will let Israel  Chemicals’ Dead Sea Works unit continue to extract salt at its evaporation pools.

The plan, which now goes to the cabinet for approval, is based on a 2012 agreement that will have Israel Chemicals fund 3.04 billion shekels of the cost and the government the rest.

It adds on to urgent work already being done to prevent flooding at the hotels. The agreement provides for salt to be shipped further north along the Dead Sea from a location known as Pool 5, which is liable to overflow.

The head of the planning commission, Avigdor Yitzhahi, said the plan “balanced all the needs of the various parties and took the industrial, tourist, environmental and residential aspects into account.”

Israel Chemicals’ potash production at the Dead Sea is helping sink the floor of evaporation pools, but it is also causing the sea at the southern basin to rise. The situation has required urgent action for a long-term solution, which includes Israel Chemicals’ request to build a new pumping station for potash production.

The Finance Ministry called the plan an optimal solution, citing the conveyor belt that will ship salt harvested in the southern basin to the north. It said the plan would minimize damage to the environment and landscape in the area.