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can the salton sea be fixed

The Portfolio was developed in response to Governor Newsom’s Executive Order (N-10-19), which called for a comprehensive strategy to build a climate-resilient water system for the 21st century. By Sara Jerome, @sarmje. Some prioritize economic development; some emphasize habitat creation; one seeks to minimize water requirements. At the beginning of 2020, Gov. The Salton Sea’s shoreline is receding, exposing a dusty lakebed known as the “playa.” This sandy substance holds a century’s worth of agricultural runoff, including DDT, ammonia, possibly carcinogenic herbicides like trifluralin and other chemicals. For more than 40 years, Californians have been studying and debating ideas about saving the Salton Sea. Since entering Congress in 2013, he has tried to rally local lawmakers and called on the federal government to take a more active role. The Salton Sea shoreline slowly recedes away from the small community of Bombay Beach near Highway 86 on the sea's eastern shore in this aerial photograph, … Saving the Salton Sea will not be easy, or cheap. Strictly Necessary Cookie should be enabled at all times so that we can save your preferences for cookie settings. They’ve also nearly finished permitting projects that will cover 30,000 acres, a little more than a third of the area that could eventually be exposed. The Salton Sea has gotten a bad rap over the years, most of it unwarranted. For more than 40 years, Californians have been studying and debating ideas about saving the Salton Sea. Yet a failure to agree on a compromise plan will keep the Sea mired in inaction, and could squander our best opportunity for saving the Salton Sea. ‘No more broken treaties’: Indigenous leaders urge Biden to shut down Dakota Access pipeline. Unfortunately, this is not a problem that California can simply ignore or dismiss. Is it happening? Visibility is so poor you can’t see down the block. The Sea and its environs are one of the most important spots on the map for birds, with more than 400 species of birds – often numbering in the millions of individual birds – visiting the Sea every year. Only a few miles east of the family’s neatly kept house, it’s a cobalt-blue patch on Southern California’s Colorado Desert, a roughly 325-square-mile oblong oddity that’s twice as salty as the ocean. The canal was fixed by 1907, but the Salton Sea had been created. Pacific Institute This op-ed was originally printed in The Riverside Press-Enterprise on October 28. This led to an 18 month period where the water was freely flowing into the Basin. This website uses cookies so that we can provide you with the best user experience possible. Such a compromise plan would be faster and less costly to complete than the existing recreational plans, providing both economic and ecological benefits sooner – and more feasibly – than with any of the eight existing plans. They’re racing against the clock. This week, the California Department of Water Resources released its Draft Environmental Impact Report assessing eight ways to restore the Sea and laying out the consequences if we fail to act. The Salton Sea is one of the world's largest inland seas, once 45 miles long and 25 miles wide. This comment letter focuses on how the California Water Resilience Portfolio can incorporate multiple benefits when prioritizing and funding water management strategies throughout the state. The region already is home to California’s highest childhood asthma hospitalization rate—increases in airborne dust will only impact more children, and possibly the region’s growing elderly population. The Salton Sea is a huge body of water, almost 50 percent larger than the San Fernando Valley. Always free, always fresh, Ask your climate scientist if Grist is right for you. Need a daily dose of good climate news? California’s governor and natural resources secretary have demonstrated the commitment and political will needed to construct actual, on-the-ground habitat and dust control projects. Grist is powered by WordPress.com VIP. The Salton Sea would be recovered with a permanent supply of water. Grist's comments only work with JavaScript. He returned home to practice medicine after studying at Harvard, and he still wears gym shoes with his suits, as if he’s about to run into the emergency room. Gavin Newsom promised an additional $220 million, but that was predicated on a bond. Located on the San Andreas Fault at the southern end of the U.S. state of California, it lies within the Salton Trough that stretches to the Gulf of California in Mexico. In 2002, the Federal Government addressed this same problem by allocating 800,000 acre feet of water from the Colorado River to be poured into the Sea over 15 years. This week, the California Department of Water Resources released its Draft Environmental Impact Report assessing eight ways to restore the Sea and laying out the consequences if we fail to act. Unfortunately, this is not a problem that California can simply ignore or dismiss. That's a big problem for people in the area. In response to competing demands, the 2003 agreement diverted water from the Imperial Valley. No single plan does a very good job of satisfying the primary legal mandate to maximize feasible fish and wildlife habitat while eliminating air quality impacts from the restoration project and protecting water quality. Get news from Pacific Institute in your inbox. This means that unlike most lakes which have an outflow, the Salton Sea only has inflow. In January 2020, California state agencies released a draft document meant to signify a new chapter in California water: the Water Resilience Portfolio. We no longer have the luxury of delay and inaction. Ruiz said that divergent visions had stalled progress, while egos got in the way. “It’s OK. Just go to the office,” she’d say. Red flags flutter outside the schools in Salton City, California, when the air quality is dangerous. Tractors dug long, straight furrows through the white, sandy playa to catch the windblown dust. Dust billows across the desert, blanketing playgrounds and baseball diamonds, the swirling grit canceling recess and forcing students indoors. The Salton Sea, California's largest lake, will die unless the state throws a staggering amount of resources at it in the next decade or so. But the Salton Sea doesn't command notice among environmentally minded Californians the way those other bodies of water do. But the Salton Sea is just 43 feet at its maximum depth. Not surprisingly, the scale and cost of the various restoration plans are also huge and complex. California politicians argue the federal government needs to step up because the Bureau of Reclamation owns much of the land underneath the lake. A smaller, less complex plan also benefits from a lower risk of failure, protecting taxpayers’ interests. The Imperial Irrigation District wants the state to act, too, citing the 2003 water transfer agreement. And while California regularly calls on bonds to fund large projects, that money can’t be used for operations and maintenance. The people who live … Powered by Create your own unique website with customizable templates. Individual construction sites are expensive, with one roughly 4,000-acre project set to break ground in 2021 costing an estimated $200 million. So we’re seeing some work,” said Garcia. In 1905, these human engineering errors allowed saline water to be carried from a flooded Colorado River into the Salton Sink area, thus creating the present-day Salton Sea. Assembly Member Eduardo Garcia, a Democrat from Coachella, who represents the region surrounding the lake, is optimistic. See our privacy policy. You're more likely to see a "Keep Tahoe Blue" bumpersticker in Palm Springs than you are stickers referring to the Salton Sea. Not surprisingly, the scale and cost of the various restoration plans are also huge and complex. In this report, we discuss the changing conditions in and around the Sea, their statewide importance, and the Legislature’s role in overseeing projects to reduce potential negative effects on public health and wildlife. So, in 2007, the state released a sweeping proposal with an $8.9 billion price tag — unfortunately, just as the Great Recession took hold. The feds insist they occupy a supporting role, and agency heads from Reclamation and the U.S. Resources Over tens of thousands of years, as it meandered across the West, the Colorado River occasionally filled the Salton Sea. Cons: Even if private investors are willing to tap into a speculative water venture, the projects, costing up to … Dust billows across the desert, blanketing playgrounds and baseball diamonds, the swirling grit canceling recess and forcing students indoors. But more expensive wetland habitat restoration is needed; the lake has long been an important feeding ground along the Pacific Flyway, a migratory bird route on the Western Seaboard. Now the lake gets replenished by irrigation runoff and "municipal and industrial drainage," according to the … A compromise plan could include both a 10,000 acre recreational lake – more than twice the size of the next-largest existing lake in southern California – and sufficient wildlife habitat and air quality protection to address legal requirements. By late 2020, the California Natural Resources Agency had completed one dust-suppression project covering a mere 112 acres; the goal for the end of that year was 3,800 acres. Red flags flutter outside the schools in Salton City when the air quality is dangerous. Mette Lampcov. A sign, complete with typos, showed a hopeful rendering of a functioning wetland and promised: “Estimated construction in 2016.”, Representative Raul Ruiz, a Demoract from California, introduced the federal Salton Sea Public Health and Environmental Protection Act in November to streamline permitting and unlock additional federal dollars. Right in the middle of one of the driest deserts in North America lies California’s largest lake, the little-known and oft-maligned Salton Sea. But she couldn’t leave her job, harvesting vegetables in the fields that form square oases in the Coachella Valley. Of course, such compromise will not be perfect. The Sea is too important, and ultimately, too costly, not to save. The Salton Sea, California’s largest lake, is in decline, mainly due to ever decreasing water flows. This op-ed was originally printed in The Riverside Press-Enterprise on October 28. The state and federal governments have spent about $70 million so far, largely on salaries and studies. For now, the state lacks a better funding plan. “For a very long time, the enormity of the challenge at the sea was frankly overwhelming, and there was very little action at the state level until 2014 or 2015,” said Wade Crowfoot, secretary of the Natural Resources Agency, the lead department tasked with restoring the sea. Now, for the first time, there are concrete plans for restoring the Sea and enough information to make educated decisions. No single plan does a very good job of satisfying the primary legal mandate to maximize feasible fish and wildlife habitat while eliminating air quality impacts from the restoration project and protecting water quality. Salinity Eutrophication Migrating Birds Air Quality. Saving the Salton Sea will not be easy, or cheap. I'm sure it is less enjoyable when the temperature are over 100. Cookie information is stored in your browser and performs functions such as recognising you when you return to our website and helping our team to understand which sections of the website you find most interesting and useful. Still, the agreement included 15 years of inflows to temporarily control salinity while the state decided on a plan. “The ladies will help you change.”, Get Grist in your inbox Another 160-acre design will cost $20 million. The water in California's Salton Sea is vanishing. In 2020, the Imperial County Air Pollution Control District slapped the state and feds with notices of violation for failing to complete dust-control projects. “That money has been invested in our emergency response.”, If the Salton Sea restoration were to reinvigorate the Pacific Flyway, it would likely begin at the wetlands around Red Hill Bay on the lake’s southeastern corner, where various agencies are constructing new habitat. 1 goal was to break ground on a project to rip that inertia to pieces and to start building momentum.”, The son of farmworkers, Ruiz grew up just miles from the lake. Years of studies, salaries, and office supplies have been purchased, but few shovels have been put to work. For a shallow body of water, the Salton Sea holds a large amount of sunk costs. A compromise plan that does what the law requires—providing quality fish and wildlife habitat and protecting air and water quality—and creates recreational and economic opportunities may be the last, best chance for the Salton Sea. The Salton Sea is a shallow, landlocked body of water that has a high concentration of salts in Riverside and Imperial counties. Green groups promised a racial reckoning in 2020. Juarez, a mother of three and active volunteer at the schools, often received calls to pick up her 7-year-old son, Lihan, when sudden nosebleeds soiled his outfits. http://www.saltonseacoalition.org/reportcard, Pacific Institute Provides Comments on California Water Resilience Portfolio, Comment Letter on the Draft Water Resilience Portfolio for the State of California Regarding a Multi-Benefit Approach, Comment Letter on the Draft Water Resilience Portfolio for the State of California. The Salton Sea’s problems are symptomatic of problems across the Colorado River basin. For Juarez, who began working in the fields when she was just 15, the clock is ticking on the American dream her family built in the California desert. According to an opinion piece in the Desert Sun, the Salton Sea water loss "poses a growing environmental and economic threat to the Coachella Valley, Imperial County and the state.". letting the sea die will cause significant harm to both public health and wildlife in Southern California and beyond. It soon became clear that salinity levels would continue increasing. What can I do to bring the Green New Deal to life? The state is appropriating some funds, but the federal government has been slow to pitch in. Oakland, CA 94612. Even if the farmers, environmentalists, tribes, developers, and local communities agreed tomorrow on a compromise plan, it still will be years before construction begins, and many years after that before the project is completed. And the reason: The Salton Sea doesn't conform to what we think Nature ought to be. It’s a sentiment her elected representatives share. This comment letter conveys summary comments and suggestions on the draft Water Resilience Portfolio released by California state agencies, drawing on the considerable experience Pacific Institute has around themes of water efficiency, stormwater management, and the Salton Sea. Several proposals to ‘fix’ the sea are being considered. Within the next 20-30 years, the Sea will be dealt the greatest insult, as the volume of water that sustains this 360-square mile lake will decrease by more than 40 percent, rapidly shrinking the lake and increasing the amount of dust and salt that blows through the Imperial and Coachella valleys. But Arturo Delgado, an assistant secretary with the Natural Resources Agency and the state’s Salton Sea czar, pointed out that a portion of the more than $355 million set aside for the lake — 99 percent of it from bonds — needed to be spent sorting out permits and access to a complex checkerboard of state, tribal, federal and private land. 654 13th Street The Salton Sea is one of few wetland habitats remaining in California. Now, for the first time, there are concrete plans for restoring the Sea and enough information to make educated decisions. This means that every time you visit this website you will need to enable or disable cookies again. 6 years after Flint water crisis, Michigan’s ex-governor to face charges, In the shadow of Amazon, resistance takes root in San Bernardino. The Salton Sea is a huge body of water, almost 50 percent larger than the San Fernando Valley. This presentation on the Salton Sea presented by Michael Cohen at the 2019 GWC Summer Conference covers progress at the sea, the Colorado River and the sea, new bargains, and potential solutions. This website uses cookies to provide you with the best browsing experience. The result of an irrigation accident over 100 years ago, the Salton Sink (below sea level) started filling with water, and having no natural outlet, the water’s getting pretty stagnant, toxic, and just plain yucky. Despite its importance, the Salton Sea is the Rodney Dangerfield of California’s lakes, enduring insult after insult. To view the Coalition’s assessment of the proposed restoration alternatives, visit http://www.saltonseacoalition.org/reportcard. The lake’s most recent iteration formed between 1905 and 1907, when an engineering disaster diverted the river into the basin. Visibility is so poor you can’t see down the block. From this free flowing water, the Salton Sea was created. Right in the middle of one of the driest deserts in North America lies California’s largest lake, the little-known and oft-maligned Salton Sea. The potentially dangerous air quality problems aren’t associated with the smell but rather the particulate pollution from a drying sea. Phil Kiddoo, an air pollution expert who worked to contain a similar problem of the dry Owens Lake, told The Verge in an interview that the Salton Sea should be fixed as soon as possible. (Geologic studies show that the Colorado River spilled into the Salton Basin many times over the millennia, creating intermittent lakes. Meanwhile, the high-water mark has fallen nearly 10 feet, and salinity continues to rise. As of late November, state agencies had used about $53 million, most of it going to ledger entries, including “studies and planning activities,” “staffing and other design costs” and “annual surveys to monitor bird and fish populations.” Glaring zeros marked the “expended” column next to several construction budgets. Which lies to the Beacon to receive daily updates on solutions driving forward! Ready for large-scale builds, the state and federal governments have spent about $ 70 so. To move away but is finally considering it Perhaps Lihan had allergies wildlife Service refused attend. The office, ” said Garcia a problem that California can simply or. Poor you can ’ t have the luxury of delay and inaction, creating intermittent lakes than the Fernando! Unfortunately, this is not a problem that California can simply ignore or.., enduring insult after insult began suffering headaches and respiratory issues enduring after... 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