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Salton Sea – Let it Dry Up


Last updated 10/7/2015 at 1:59pm

California’s Little Hoover Commission released its long-awaited Salton Sea report Thursday, Sept. 24, several months after it held a fact-finding hearing in Palm Desert about what to do with the Salton Sea. One of the recommendations made by the independent agency was to suggest that the Imperial Irrigation District let the lake dry up faster.

The Commission, investigates state government operations and makes recommendations to the state Legislature. In its report, the Imperial Irrigation District should consider selling some or all of its remaining mitigation water to the state’s largest water supplier, the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California. That sale alone would generate more than $120 million for Salton Sea restoration.

“There is more revenue available through this option than any other source currently available, except for an unknown amount of funding that potentially could be awarded to the Salton Sea Restoration Fund through Proposition 1,” the commission wrote, referring to the $7.5 billion water bond.

Imperial Irrigation District and Imperial County put forward a $3.15 billion proposal in July to cover a long-term restoration plan. $120 million wouldn’t cover that cost, however it could pay for smaller projects designed to cover parts of the lakebed with small pools, suppressing dust and providing habitats for local wildlife.

District general manager Kevin Kelley says he is sceptical state officials can get their act together quickly enough to make a water sale worthwhile. He said “We’ve just been through 13 years of lots of hand-wringing and not a lot of action” by the state government. Which is a concern as the Commission has raised the caution, that selling mitigation water to Metropolitan, causing the lake to dry up faster, would be dangerous. Imperial Irrigation District were called on to facilitate the sale only if “restoration projects can be immediately implemented” by state officials.

Funding isn’t the only obstacle facing the Salton Sea restoration. The commission addressed the proposal of piping in water from the Pacific Ocean or the Sea of Cortez. Although water experts have generally dismissed the theory as impractical and prohibitively expensive, the commission wrote “Local agencies have influential stakeholders who are opposed to any solution short of a return to the Salton Sea’s glory days.” noting opposition from those only satisfied if the lake is reformed to its former size and splendour.

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