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article imageCalifornia's Salton Sea may get $400 million make-over

By Karen Graham     Mar 17, 2017 in Environment
Sacramento - On Thursday, California Governor Jerry Brown's administration floated a proposal for a plan that would cost taxpayers about $400 million over 10 years to slow the shrinking of the state's largest manmade lake.
The plan will deal with trying to slow the shrinking of the Salton Sea, the state's largest manmade lake located 150 miles east of Los Angeles, in the hot desert of the Imperial and Coachella valleys. Habitat and dust suppression projects will be the primary focus of the plan.
Basically, the project released by the state’s Natural Resources Agency on Thursday lays out a plan for building thousands of acres of ponds and wetlands on the northern and southern ends of the lake over a period of 10 years in an attempt to cover up the dusty lakebed, creating a habitat for birds as the lake recedes.
Salton Sea  showing separated pools containing high concentrations of algae and bacteria
Salton Sea, showing separated pools containing high concentrations of algae and bacteria
A critical time for the Salton Sea
The proposal comes at a critical time for the lake and may possibly be too late for the remedial action planned by the state. In the first place, the Salton Sea is shrinking at an accelerated rate, and the proposed ponds won't do anything to help the new areas of the lakebed that will be exposed.
Secondly, and probably even more important - The San Diego regional water agency will stop sending water to the lake at the end of 2017. In 2003, Southern California Water Districts, including San Diego, agreed to sign-off on the hotly contested Quantification Settlement Agreement. The agreement allowed for the transfer of 300,000-acre feet of water from the Imperial Irrigation District to the San Diego County Water Authority. $300 million was also provided for Salton Sea restoration.
Further Reading: California's Salton Sea — A 'looming crisis' years in the making
Thousands of Tilapia line the shores of the Salton Sea because of a depletion of oxygen in the pollu...
Thousands of Tilapia line the shores of the Salton Sea because of a depletion of oxygen in the polluted waters.
Jeff T.
Where will the money come from?
Many Californians are probably asking themselves this very question today. The state has $80 million that was set aside from a voter-approved water bond measure, but the funds fall well short of the amount needed to fund the project for 10 years. A quick "guesstimate" would suggest that there is two-years worth of funding in the state's coffers right now.
The 26-page project outline covers 29,800 acres of the 48,300 acres expected to dry up by 2028 if nothing were done. The Sierra Club says that while the project is a welcome start, a lack of secured funding requires state leaders "work together" to avoid a "human health, ecological and economic disaster."
The sad part of this story is that California has had 15 years to come up with a plan to develop a long-term fix for the Salton Sea, based on the 2003 agreement. And the longer the state waits to begin remedial actions, the longer people will have to put up with the toxic dust particles blowing off the dry lakebed.
The Imperial Irrigation District, which manages the Imperial Valley's water, on Thursday asked the State Water Resources Control Board to hold public hearings that hopefully would lead to a "binding agreement" on the lake's restoration. This may be necessary because Governor Brown's tenure ends in 2018, and his successor might not have the same priorities.
More about salton sea, Environmental disaster, ponds and wetlands, water bond, Health risk
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