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Water, Salt and Dust: The Salton Sea Management Plan


Last updated 3/22/2017 at 1:13pm

After 17 years of Drought in the Colorado Basin, the Salton Sea has undergone by reason of decreasing volume 1) increasing water salinity, and 2) increasing acreage surrounding the Sea, called the playa. In the playa, formed as the water level continues to drop, microscopic wind-borne dust particles pose a serious threat to human health, fish and birds and their habitats, and even tourism.

It’s been decades since study after study has failed to move the ball forward to actually get an overall plan approved and projects funded and underway. “Breaking Point,” directed by Bill Wisneski, won Best Documentary at our Borrego Film Festival last year (and was widely acclaimed elsewhere). The film detailed the problems in dire need of fixing, and fairly quickly. Perhaps the politicians who control the purse strings started paying more attention.

With the factual basis for Salton Sea restoration beyond scientific question, the many threats facing it are only now starting to be actually mitigated, based on increasing interest and financial support from state legislators, plus logistical support from state and federal agencies. Grassroots-based public outcries for Salton Sea improvements certainly helped legislators prioritize budget expenditures.

California Governor Jerry Brown just released a budget proposal calling for $400 million, 10-year restoration of the Salton Sea, coinciding with the release of the Salton Sea Management Plan for the next 10 years. A prime mover among legislators is State Assemblyman Eduardo Garcia (D-Coachella). He was the prime sponsor the Red Hill Bay project, legislation that passed into law to begin “shovel-ready” restoration projects as soon as possible. While Red Hill wetlands restoration is funded separately from SSMA projects, it’s mentioned in the SSMA and should count as moving us off dead center and towards restoration for other areas of the Salton Sea. Red Hill is expected to be completed later this year.

And so we have our first test: Will the State of California see the Red Hill Bay project as a restoration success story and finally appropriate funds and get started on implementing the 10-year plan? Time will tell.

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