WASHINGTON D.C. – Federal officials have approved plans for the restoration of the Salton Sea wetlands over the next 15 years.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service cleared the way Sept. 19 for local officials to move forward with a comprehensive conservation plan that details long-range management of wildlife and habitat with recreational use at two refuges.
One is the Sonny Bono Salton Sea National Wildlife Refuge, which consists of 37,660 acres at the south end of the Salton Sea; the other is the 3,577-acre Coachella Valley National Wildlife Refuge 10 miles east of Palm Springs.
“This action will accelerate real progress in federal wetlands needed to sustain the ecology surrounding the Sea,” said Jim Hanks, chairman of the Salton Sea Authority, in a news release.
Federal officials and the joint powers authority, made up of Riverside and Imperial counties, the Torres-Martinez Desert Cahuilla tribe, Imperial Irrigation District and Coachella Valley Water District, have been working on the plan for about four years.
The Salton Sea is home to more than 400 species of migrating birds that use it as a critical resting habitat.
But the sea is shrinking and becoming saltier due to drought and contracts that transfer water from the region to the coast, according to the authority.
The plan describes the area as a “national wildlife treasure” and proposes to protect the habitat, including native plants, so that it remains an important resting habitat for migratory birds. Another goal is to allow for compatible recreational use.
The conservation plan strengthens the partnership with the federal government, which owns nearly 40 percent of the Salton Sea land, stated Roger Shintaku, general manager of the authority.
A plan to manage the Salton Sea has not been updated since 1972.