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Salton Sea Sense

A resource for California's largest lake and potential environmental catastrophe

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Remediation

Federal Support for the Salton Sea

In 2007, Senator Barbara Boxer, along with other sponsors, pushed to pass the Water Resources Development Act into law, overriding a presidential veto. In addition to other projects across the country, the bill laid out several steps for designing and implementing a series of pilot projects to investigate ways of avoiding and mitigating the possible impacts of the drying Salton Sea. First, pilot projects would be chosen based on their feasibility as described in the Department of Water Resources’ funding plan. Then, appropriate pilot projects—if approved by the state and the Salton Sea Authority—would be implemented with the state paying 35% of the cost and federal funding supplying the rest. The bill concludes with a federal spending authorization: $30,000,000, intended for the support of at least six separate pilot projects. Continue reading “Federal Support for the Salton Sea”

Salton Sea and the New Normal

Last month, Salton Sea Sense had the opportunity to host and hear from Michael Cohen, Senior Research Associate at the Pacific Institute. The Pacific Institute aims to provide science-based leadership and outreach to inform public water policy, and Cohen has been working specifically on the Salton Sea since 1998. He recently published an excellent Institute blog post on the current “fortunes and prospects” at the Sea, which is available here.

In his talk at UC Riverside, Cohen outlined some of the challenges that continue to face the Salton Sea. One of those challenges is the perception of Sea as an “artificial” ecosystem, which we have previously blogged about. Cohen pointed out that the whole of the State of California’s water is part of a managed system that includes man-made aqueducts, reservoirs and pumps. The Salton Sea is an essential part of this system as one of the last remaining aquatic habitat options in the southwestern United States for birds on the Pacific Flyway. Continue reading “Salton Sea and the New Normal”

Natural or Not?

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“Why don’t we just let the Salton Sea dry up and return to its natural state?”

“The California Development Company flooded it. Why don’t they pay to fix it?”

Have you heard any of these questions, or even thought them yourself? You are not alone. Many people who begin to learn about the Salton Sea arrive at these inquisitive conclusions shortly after learning about the “Great Diversion” of 1905. But let us revisit together some historical facts and observations, and ask ourselves, “Is the Salton Sea natural or not?” Continue reading “Natural or Not?”

Salton Sea: May the (Task) Force be with you

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The Salton Sea Task Force convened in Sacramento on Tuesday to assess the progress of the Salton Sea Management Program (SSMP), which has declared specific goals for habitat and shoreline restoration. The task force was led by the State Water Resources Control Board (SWRCB), and heard from four agencies with updates: the CA Natural Resources Agency, the Colorado River Regional Water Quality Control Board, the CA Air Resources Board, and the CA Energy Commission. All gave presentations ranging from fresh perspectives on older, well-known data, to hot off the press developments within their agencies. Continue reading “Salton Sea: May the (Task) Force be with you”

New Year’s Resolutions for the Salton Sea

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Since the 1980s, several studies have been conducted and many options have been evaluated to address the impending environmental challenges posed by the Salton Sea’s current conditions. Unfortunately, minimal changes have been implemented to improve the harsh conditions that are ever worsening for the local communities and ecosystems. Here at Salton Sea Sense, we are hopeful that 2016 will be the year that the Salton Sea finally gets the attention it needs to provide remediation for the exposed playa and secure a bright future. Continue reading “New Year’s Resolutions for the Salton Sea”

Desalting the Sea: Part 2

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As mentioned in Desalting the Sea: Part 1, the Salton Sea is undergoing increasing salinization. Desalination, or “desal” for short, is a commonly proposed option to restore habitat and ecosystem health, and its role in the Salton Sea Restoration and Renewable Energy Initiative has been discussed. Part 1 explained the details of thermal distillation, and this accompanying post will introduce membrane filtration, another common desal technique. Continue reading “Desalting the Sea: Part 2”

RECAP: Salton Sea Authority Board of Directors Meeting

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Last Friday, December 10, the Salton Sea Authority (SSA) held their monthly Board of Directors meeting in Palm Desert. Members of the communities around the Salton Sea had a chance to address the board during the public comments portion of the meeting, and several people took advantage of this opportunity. There were also reports from members and affiliates of the Salton Sea Authority, including Val Simon of the US Bureau of Reclamation, and Dr. Bill Brownlie of Tetra-Tech, plus others. You can find the list of presenters and any documents presented at the meeting here. The Board reiterated that they will accept technical proposals from the public in a technical review committee. Continue reading “RECAP: Salton Sea Authority Board of Directors Meeting”

Let’s be SSWIFT about it

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The Salton Sea Water Incremental Funding in Time (SSWIFT) proposal is another reason to be optimistic about restoration at the Sea. [1] SSWIFT, which is backed by County of Riverside District Supervisor John Benoit and the Salton Sea Authority (SSA), could be a simple solution for mitigating fugitive dust while other projects that focus on wildlife preservation and energy development are established around the Sea. Continue reading “Let’s be SSWIFT about it”

Dust to Dust

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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”

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