Birds Salton Sea

The Department of Water Resources has completed the evaluation of proposals for the Species Conservation Habitat (SCH) project and Kiewit Infrastructure West Co. has been selected as the best-value design-build entity. Kiewit Infrastructure West Co. and DWR are in the process of finalizing the contract, according to a recent Salton Sea Authority press release.

Design and construction of the SCH project is expected to begin in fall 2020.

“Kiewit is proud to be selected as the contractor for the Salton Sea project,” Senior Vice President for Kiewit Infrastructure West Co. said, “This critical project will improve the Salton Sea environment for wildlife, the residents of the area, and the State of California.”

Located at the southern end of the sea along both sides of the New River, the 3,770-acre SCH project is aimed at creating habitat and suppressing dust to prevent further degradation of air quality, the report said.

The SCH anchors phase one of the Salton Sea Management Program (SSMP), which focuses on constructing wetlands and other projects to reduce exposed lake bed and health hazards posed by airborne dust from exposed lake bed.

The Salton Sea Management Program team has issued an updated Dust Suppression Action Plan to guide expedited implementation of dust suppression and associated habitat projects around the sea.

The proposed projects are intended to meet the goals of the SSMP and specific annual acreage targets outlined in State Water Resources Control Board Order.

The order is a flexible working plan that outlines the actions the SSMP proposes to take to develop and implement dust suppression perimeter projects across nine project areas, to be constructed between 2020 and 2022, according to the report. These projects will improve public health and respond to the COVID-19 emergency by improving air quality in the region.

The DSAP identifies and prioritizes a planning area of approximately 9,800 acres based on the best available scientific data, proximity to populated areas, ease of securing landowner access and environmental permitting, sites with potential availability of short- and long-term water supplies, and information obtained through public input, the press release said.

The SSMP team held public meetings in February and March in Westmorland, Bombay Beach, and Torres Martinez Reservation to gather community input on the initial draft DSAP, per the report. Public meetings held in December 2019 in Mecca and Salton City also provided input on how dust affects local residents and the potential locations and methods for dust suppression projects. The community meetings were held in some of the communities closest to the project areas identified in the draft DSAP and resulted in additional feedback for the SSMP planning team. Written comments from the public were accepted through March 27.

The SSMP team also completed tribal consultation on an administrative draft plan on July 24.

The report said the plan outlines the steps needed to transition from concept to on-the-ground implementation starting in 2020. Some projects are proposed to be located on federal lands, and additional tribal consultation is expected to occur at the project level for those locations through the National Environmental Policy Act compliance process.

The first project sites are located within the footprint of the Species Conservation Habitat project. The SSMP is proactively implementing temporary dust control measures at this site prior to the start of construction of the habitat ponds due to the potential for emissivity within portions of the project area. This project is proposed to cover up to 1,900 acres and is planned to start upon final regulatory approval, according to the Salton Sea Authority.   

The release said the updated plan will serve as a “living document” that will be refined over time through monitoring and adaptive management, as well as continued engagement with the community.

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