California Agency Releases Draft Report On Salton Sea Ecosystem Restoration

On Oct. 19, state Secretary for Resources Mike Chrisman released a draft Salton Sea Restoration Report that includes eight alternatives for sea rehabilitation and a no action option.

"The release of this study is a milestone in protecting the future of the Salton Sea and an important first step in finding the best long-term solution," said Chrisman, who also serves as chairman of the 32-member Salton Sea Advisory Committee. "We hope to build consensus among the region's residents and interested parties and move forward with a plan that will benefit this generation and generations to come."

The release of the report, known as the Draft Programmatic Environmental Impact Report (Draft PEIR), follows two years of intensive scientific study and input taken during 30 public meetings, officials said. The alternatives take into account agricultural, recreational and economic issues with the flexibility to address changing conditions at the sea. The aim is to restore habitat, keep air quality from being further degraded and protect water quality in the Salton Sea.

The process to restore the Salton Sea began in 2003 with the Quantification Settlement Agreement to reduce Southern California's dependence on Colorado River water. Under the terms of the agreement, inflows to the Salton Sea will be reduced, hastening its ecological degradation. To mitigate these effects, state legislation established a Salton Sea Advisory Committee to help guide the secretary for Resources in developing the best restoration and mitigation plan for the next 75 years.

The Salton Sea, located in Riverside and Imperial counties, is California's largest lake, 35 miles long and 15 miles wide. It was formed in 1905 after an accidental levee break from the Colorado River allowed water to fill a deep desert basin. Birds and other wildlife flourished in the newly formed habitat, and they came to depend on the Salton Sea as other wetlands quickly disappeared. The sea has gradually become less hospitable as salts that flow into the basin and dissolve have no natural outlet. The sea is 30 percent more saline than the ocean, creating a hostile habitat for wildlife and very poor air and water quality.

The release of the study opened a 90-day public comment period on the alternatives and how best to restore the Salton Sea ecosystem. During the comment period, public workshops will be held in the Salton Sea region and throughout the state. Following the public-comment period, the secretary for Resources will select a preferred alternative that will be presented to the state Legislature for approval and funding.

More information on the Salton Sea Ecosystem Restoration Program can be found at http://www.saltonsea.water.ca.gov.

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