Another gathering for rescuing the Salton Sea

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Receding Salton Sea shoreline photo by Mark Sigmon
Receding Salton Sea shoreline
photo by Mark Sigmon

NORTH SHORE — U.S. Rep. Raul Ruiz hosted federal, state and local officials at the Salton Sea Friday to discuss ways of preserving the lake despite limited government funding and its water source being sold to the coastal cities.

Due to diminishing water, a bathtub ring of past pesticide, and other environmental hazard materials now circles the lake. As this dries, it is picked up by the wind and carried through the rural towns of Imperial and Coachella Valley.

There are many expensive ideas, but the state and federal government has found funds to implement smaller projects that will keep parts of the dry beds covered with shallow ponds.

“We have that momentum,” Ruiz told the group at the North Shore Beach and Yacht Club. “The solution is a puzzle. We all have a piece of it.”

Some government officials are looking to the solar and geothermal businesses that exist next to the lake to provide additional funding.

Many ideas brought up were impractical according to several Salton Sea Authority members, such as piping in water, or building canals from the Sea of Cortez.
Even if such plans were to come through, though, the Salton Sea is expected to have less water flowing into it in the coming years.

The Salton Sea is called an accidental sea since it was created by a flood of the Colorado River in 1905. However, the Indians of the area claim there was a sea there thousands of years prior and it has come and gone according to once normal flooding of the Colorado River before damming upstream eventually put the river under man’s control.

Earlier this month, state officials gave tentative approval to Salton Sea Financial Assistance Program grants totaling about $3 million. Those grants are to support three projects that involve creating and improving wetland areas along the lake shore.

The Obama administration also allotted $200,000 in its budget request to support work by the Army Corps of Engineers on Salton Sea projects.

Al Kalin attended the gathering as a representative of the Imperial County Farm Bureau. He said he has been attending meetings aimed at saving the Salton Sea for about 40 years. “I’m here today hoping it works,” he said.

Kalin noted that the dust blown into the air from exposed stretches of lake bed is a growing problem, and said efforts to keep those areas covered with water are crucial. “Every time we can do a small project that can cover that playa, I think that’s a step in the right direction,” he said.