While there are many risks associated with the drying of the Salton Sea, perhaps the most concerning is the risk to public health. Previous posts on this blog discussed the health effects of dust from the Salton Sea, and that these health effects could end up costing around $29 billion. However, you may be thinking that these risks and costs are exaggerations or scare tactics. How could the dust from the Salton Sea make such a big difference when it is relatively small (343 square miles) when compared to the whole Salton Basin area of 8,360 square miles? Also, the majority of the basin is not covered by crops to reduce the wind erosion and transport of dust. So how can the drying of the Salton Sea which is approximately 3% of the total basin area, have such a disproportionate impact on the air quality? The answers to these questions lie in the composition of the sediment that lies below the Salton Sea. Continue reading “Dust to Dust”
Assembly Bill 965, written by Eduardo Garcia from the 56th District, amends previous legislation to increase cooperation with Mexico and allocates money to be used for watershed restoration projects along the US-Mexico border.  Specifically, AB 965 adds the Secretary of State and Consumer Services to the California-Mexico Border Relations Council as a voting member, and it allows the US EPA Region 9 to appoint a non-voting representative to the council as well. Similarly, the bill also requires the council to invite representatives from Mexico to any meetings that are held by the council. As far as resource allocation, the bill makes funds available from the California Border Environmental and Public Health Protection Fund to the California-Mexico Border Relations Council, to be used to:
“… identify and resolve environmental and public health problems that directly threaten the health or environmental quality of California residents or sensitive natural resources of the California border region, including projects related to domestic and industrial wastewater, vehicle and industrial air emissions, hazardous waste transport and disposal, human and ecological risk, and disposal of municipal solid waste.” 
My previous posts have highlighted some of the problems faced by the birds of the Salton Sea. While their struggles are many, and their future seems dim without a coordinated restoration plan, there are ways for the average citizen to help.
The first way is to contact your representatives and let them know that you care about this issue! The dangers to the avian community are symptoms of the larger problems that the Sea is facing. These can only be addressed from political action, which will only happen if the representatives know that their constituency cares.
The first post on this topic established that the Salton Sea is an ecological oasis and one of the last existing stops in southern California for migratory birds along the Pacific Flyway. However, it was mentioned previously that there are many factors which are threatening this avian Eden. Each of these threats will be addressed in more detail individually, with the first being avian botulism toxin.
Avian botulism toxin is produced by the bacteria Clostridium botulinum. While the bacteria is commonly found in soils and wetlands, it will not produce the botulism toxin unless certain environmental conditions are met. In order for the bacteria to produce the toxin, it needs an anaerobic environment, warm temperatures, and a protein source. Do these conditions sound familiar? In the summer, low dissolved oxygen levels, high temperatures, and the presence of dead algae (protein source) in the Salton Sea provide an ideal environment for the growth of C. botulinum and the subsequent production of avian botulism toxin. Continue reading “The Bird is the Word, Part 2”
Over 400 different species of birds rely on the Salton Sea
The Salton Sea is often construed by the news, documentaries, and other blogs as a post-apocalyptic wasteland that is devoid of life. However, this is an incorrect portrayal that has taken hold, most likely for its dramatic effect. In reality, the Salton Sea and its surrounding area is an oasis of biodiversity in the Sonoran Desert. Over 400 different species of birds utilize the sea for some portion of the year . This makes the Salton Sea rank 2nd in avian diversity in the United States . In addition to the sheer number of birds that rely on the Sea, it is important to consider which species of birds are there. Continue reading “Bird is the Word”