Southern California’s Salton Sea—approximately 232 feet (70 m) below sea level— is one of the world’s largest inland seas. It has 130 miles of shoreline and is larger than Lake Tahoe.
The sea was created in 1905 when the Colorado River broke through a series of dikes, flooding a salty basin known as the Salton Sink in the Imperial Valley. The sea is an important stopping point for 1 million migratory waterfowl, and serves as critical habitat for birds moving south to Mexico and Central America. Overall, the Salton Sea harbors more than 270 species of birds including ducks, geese, cormorants and pelicans.
Arizona’s top water official says a lawsuit filed Tuesday by California’s Imperial Irrigation District could pose a threat to the newly approved multistate drought contingency plan. But Tom Buschatzke, director of the Department of Water Resources, said he’s not worried the plan will fall apart — at least not yet.
The Colorado River Sustainability Campaign has been an important behind-the-scenes player for environmentalists working on the waterway, which provides water to 40 million people. … When asked who funds his project, Sam Tucker listed five foundations. Those foundations’ grant databases showed that his campaign has received at least $8.6 million since 2016. … Almost half — $4 million — of the campaign’s money came from one source: the Walton Family Foundation. (Second of two parts.)
Should the state of California honor a commitment made in 2003 to restore the Salton Sea, despite moving water away from the area to thirsty coastal cities? Or should this artificial, long-festering sea be left alone to dry up entirely? While politicians have dithered, Bombay Beach’s atmospheric decay has drawn filmmakers, novelists and other artists who marvel at the thriving community hidden inside seemingly derelict properties.
The petition, filed in Los Angeles Superior Court, alleges violations of the California Environmental Quality Act by the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, and names the Coachella Valley, Palo Verde and Needles water districts as well. It asks the court to suspend the Lower Basin Drought Contingency Plan until a thorough environmental analysis has been completed.
There are at least six high-profile projects in Utah, Colorado, and Wyoming that combined could divert more than 300,000 acre-feet of water from the beleaguered Colorado River. That’s the equivalent of Nevada’s entire allocation from the river. These projects are in different stages of permitting and funding, but are moving ahead even as headlines about the river’s dwindling supply dominate the news.
An unlikely advocate seems to be around every bend of the Colorado River these days: the Walton Family Foundation. The $3.65 billion organization launched by Walmart founder Sam Walton has become ubiquitous in the seven-state basin that provides water to 40 million people, dishing out $100 million in grants in the last five years alone. … The foundation’s reach is dizzying and, outside the basin, has received scant attention. (First of two parts.)
President Donald Trump signed a bill Tuesday authorizing a plan for Western states to take less water from the overburdened Colorado River. The president’s signing capped a years-long process of sometimes difficult negotiations among the seven states that rely on the river. … Next, representatives from Arizona and the other Colorado River basin states who had a hand in crafting the deal are expected to meet for a formal signing ceremony.
Here’s something worth celebrating: In a rare bipartisan resolve to prevent a water crisis in the Southwest, Congress has authorized a plan to reduce consumption from the Colorado River – a major conservation milestone. It shows that when we work together as Americans, we can address some of the biggest challenges facing our nation today.
Massive fish-die offs. Dead birds. A toxic stench. Bryan Mendez and Olivia Rodriguez are dissatisfied that those sad facts are the only things most Californians ever hear about the Salton Sea, one of the largest inland seas in the world.
Congress passed an historic Colorado River drought deal on Monday, which is now on its way to President Trump’s desk for his signature. That leaves Arizona back to wrestling with water issues that it mostly set aside during the two years it fixated on the negotiations for the Colorado River deal.
At its core, the ill-advised attempt to “restore” the Salton Sea is nothing short of environmental malpractice. It will inevitably fail at a very high cost to both wildlife and taxpayers, succeeding only in perpetuating a hazardous condition.
Responding to congressional approval of a Southwestern drought pact, officials from the Imperial Irrigation District said Tuesday the Salton Sea is the untested plan’s “first casualty.” … IID had refused to sign the plan because it wanted a “firm commitment” of more than $400 million in state and federal funds to resolve environmental issues at the Salton Sea.
Hot weather is on its way, and with it, potentially toxic bacteria could bloom rapidly in California’s largest lake, the Salton Sea, and other waters on the receiving end of runoff from farms and golf courses or sewage spills. With temperatures across the desert expected to climb high into the 90s by Monday, experts say telltale signs will quickly appear.
The use of public art to bring about social change created the interactive art event called the “Bombay Beach Biennale” on the shores of the Salton Sea. Organizers hope to bring attention to the long-ignored environmental issue facing the region, once one of the premier tourist destinations in Southern California.
Excluded from a Southwestern drought pact, the Imperial Irrigation District won a small victory on Tuesday when federal legislators included protections for the Salton Sea that were left out of previous drafts of the agreement.
Two members of Arizona’s congressional delegation introduced legislation Tuesday on a plan to address a shrinking supply of water from a river that serves 40 million people in the U.S. West. Republican Sen. Martha McSally and Democratic Rep. Raul Grijalva vowed to move identical bills quickly through the chambers. Bipartisan lawmakers from Colorado River basin states signed on as co-sponsors.
Decay festers all around at the Salton Sea, the vast inland lake in Southern California that once hosted beauty pageants and boat races in its tourist heyday. … But new life is moving into the breach. At Bombay Beach, artists drawn by the cheap prices and surreal setting have been snapping up lots and crumbling buildings as gallery spaces.
The March 26 opinion piece by Tom Buschatzke and 13 other Colorado River Drought Contingency Plan proponents to persuade the public that the DCP is good for the Salton Sea would have been better served – and made more believable – by a show of good faith rather than a show of force.
A plan to divvy up cutbacks to Colorado River water in times of shortage has passed its first two tests in Congress. On Thursday, a House subcommittee endorsed the Drought Contingency Plan after questioning the state and federal officials who crafted it. Thursday’s approval came a day after a Senate subcommittee endorsed the plan. Next, lawmakers in both chambers will have to negotiate and vote on bills that would allow the federal government to carry out the plan.
U.S. Sen. Martha McSally vowed Wednesday to take quick action on a plan to preserve the drought-stricken Colorado River, which serves about 40 million people in the U.S. West and Mexico. … The plans that have been in the works for years got a first congressional hearing Wednesday before a subcommittee that McSally chairs. The Arizona Republican said she’ll introduce a bill soon and expects strong support.
The agreement represents the first multistate effort in more than a decade to readjust the collective rules for dealing with potential shortages. … But even as the drought agreement has earned widespread praise as a historic step toward propping up the river’s reservoirs, Arizona’s plan for implementing the deal has also drawn criticism for relying on a strategy that some argue has significant drawbacks.
In recent days, there have been contentions that the DCP has left a major factor out of the equation: the Salton Sea, California’s largest inland lake. But this simply is not the case. … The Imperial Irrigation District has yet to sign on to the DCP. The DCP has an on-ramp for IID’s participation if they change their minds. But with or without IID’s participation, the DCP will not adversely impact the Salton Sea…
I introduced AB 854 because the board of directors of IID, one of California’s most powerful municipal utilities, operates without representation from Riverside County ratepayers who make up 60 percent of their service territory. Moreover, according to The Desert Sun, Riverside County ratepayers provide IID with the majority of its revenue yet have no voice on how their municipal utility is managed.
U.S. Bureau of Reclamation Commissioner Brenda Burman commended Arizona, California, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah and Wyoming for reaching a consensus on the Colorado River drought contingency plan. Now the states are seeking approval from Congress to implement it.
On this edition of Your Call’s One Planet Series, veteran environmental journalist Jim Robbins joins us to talk about his in-depth series headlined, “The West’s Great River Hits Its Limits: Will the Colorado Run Dry?”
In the coming days, Congress will begin committee hearings on unusually concise, 139-word legislation that would allow the secretary of the interior to implement the Colorado River Drought Contingency Plan, or DCP. … This agreement marks a watershed moment in building our country’s resilience to climate change.
The Colorado River Basin was already running near empty before the Trump administration approved a new deal allowing additional extractions from one of its main tributaries. While the administration found the deal would not have a significant impact on the environment surrounding the river, a collection of environmental groups say in a new federal lawsuit that it will further deplete the river basin’s supply…
What image comes to mind when you think of Lake Mead? For most, it’s likely the infamous “bathtub ring,” a troubling sign of the depleted water supply in this life-sustaining reservoir. But while this is one of the most frequently deployed images associated with the decades long “drought” in the West, do we really see it? Does it make an impact that’s strong enough to shift our perceptions and motivate us to alter our personal water consumption?
SDSU researchers examine the effects of shrinking water supplies in the Imperial-Mexicali Valley: The problems there are as old as the urbanization of Southern California: insufficient water to meet community demands and ecosystem needs. The solutions, which could figure into future policy-making, are both increasingly high-tech and surprisingly personal.
Another group of top state officials visited the Salton Sea this week to promise that this time, things will be different and progress will be made to restore the fast-drying water body. … Newly appointed water board chairman E. Joaquin Esquivel, who grew up in nearby La Quinta and fished in the lake as a boy, said he shares residents’ and longtime experts’ frustrations, and feels personally accountable to family members who still live in the area, as well as the communities around the lake.
There can be no more excuses for federal inaction. Yet shockingly I have learned from recent investigative reporting that the Trump administration is now pushing federal legislation that would eliminate public health and environmental protections for the Salton Sea and beyond as part of a federal drought plan for the Colorado River.
Representatives of seven states finished a landmark agreement to shore up the dwindling Colorado River and signed a letter to Congress on Tuesday calling for legislation to enact the deal. The set of agreements would prop up water-starved reservoirs that supply cities and farms across the Southwest and would lay the groundwork for larger negotiations to address the river’s chronic overallocation…
Residents and officials who packed a yacht club on the north shore of the Salton Sea on Tuesday vented their anger about what they perceive as unnecessary delays and obfuscations about the environmental and public health disaster unfolding here. The California Water Resources Control Board held the workshop at the North Shore Yacht and Beach Club to both inform the public and garner opinions of residents living in proximity to the sea, which is rapidly vanishing into the desert.
On Tuesday, March 19, the California Water Resources Control Board will hold a session on the North Shore to hear from state officials about their progress addressing the many issues related to the Salton Sea. This is a good opportunity for these officials to break through the remaining obstacles to progress at the Salton Sea and find a productive way forward.
It’s done. The Colorado River Board of California voted 8-1-1 Monday to sign on to a multi-state drought contingency plan, which, somewhat ironically, might not be needed for two years because of an exceptionally wet winter. The Imperial Irrigation District, a sprawling rural water district in the southeastern corner of California, refused to sign on until the federal government pledged to provide $200 million to clean up the Salton Sea, which has not occurred.
Climate change is having a profound effect on the millions of migrating birds that rely on annual stops along the Pacific Flyway as they head from Alaska to Patagonia each year. They are finding less food, saltier water and fewer places to breed and rest on their long journeys, according to a new paper in Nature’s Scientific Reports.
For the moment, Mother Nature is smiling on the Colorado River. Enough snow has piled up in the mountains that feed the river to stave off a dreaded shortage declaration for one more year, according to federal projections released Friday afternoon.
As the Trump administration moves toward a drought contingency plan for the Colorado River, the Bureau of Reclamation is pushing legislation that would exempt its work from environmental reviews. That includes potential impacts on what has emerged as a major sticking point in the drought negotiations: Southern California’s Salton Sea, a public health and ecological disaster.
If, as being widely reported, the Colorado River basin states … ultimately decide to proceed with a Lower Colorado River Basin Drought Contingency Plan that cuts out the Imperial Irrigation District (IID), no one should be surprised. It’s simply continuing a long, and perhaps successful, tradition of basin governance by running over the “miscreant(s)”.
Imperial Valley officials are reportedly close to finishing an important habitat restoration project at the Salton Sea. The remake of Red Hill Bay was supposed to be a model for a management plan around the shrinking lake, but the effort is two years overdue and still months away from completion. The Salton Sea needs a management plan because water is evaporating faster than it’s being replaced…
The Imperial Irrigation District is being written out of a massive, multi-state Colorado River drought plan at the eleventh hour. IID could sue to try to stop the revised plan from proceeding, and its board president called the latest development a violation of California environmental law. But Metropolitan Water District of Southern California general manager Jeffrey Kightlinger said attorneys for his agency, the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation and others in a working group are finalizing new documents to remove IID from the Lower Basin Drought Contingency Plan.
For the bulk of her career, Jayne Harkins has devoted her energy to issues associated with the management of the Colorado River, both with the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation and with the Colorado River Commission of Nevada.
Now her career is taking a different direction. Harkins, 58, was appointed by President Trump last August to take the helm of the United States section of the U.S.-Mexico agency that oversees myriad water matters between the two countries as they seek to sustainably manage the supply and water quality of the Colorado River, including its once-thriving Delta in Mexico, and other rivers the two countries share. She is the first woman to be named the U.S. Commissioner of the International Boundary and Water Commission for either the United States or Mexico in the commission’s 129-year history.
The sandy playa that used to be underwater is now being baked by the sun and blown around by the winds that frequently scour the desert floor here. The dust is tiny and can easily get airborne. That is a public health crisis for a region already suffering from some of California’s highest asthma rates.
The Metropolitan Water District of Southern California on Tuesday sealed California’s participation in a landmark Colorado River drought management plan, agreeing to shoulder more of the state’s future delivery cuts to prevent Lake Mead from falling to dangerously low levels. With California signed on, the plan can move to Congress, which must approve the multi-state agreement before it takes effect. The MWD board took the step over the objections of the Imperial Irrigation District, which holds senior rights to the biggest allocation of river water on the entire length of the Colorado.
The Metropolitan Water District is positioning itself to shoulder California’s entire water contribution, with its board voting Tuesday on a proposal to essentially write out of the drought plan another agency that gets more Colorado River water than anyone else. That agency, the Imperial Irrigation District, has said it won’t approve the plan unless the federal government agrees to commit $200 million to address the Salton Sea.
California is now the lone holdout on an emergency drought plan for the Colorado River, and the other river states are turning up the heat to get the deal done. Representatives from Nevada and five other Western states sent a letter to California on Saturday urging water officials there to set aside their concerns and “and immediately and unconditionally approve” the so-called Drought Contingency Plan.
The Colorado River’s federal managers have projected that if dry conditions continue, they could be unable to deliver any water at all to downstream users (including Phoenix, Tucson, Los Angeles, and San Diego) within five years. That’s the doomsday scenario that has led the Colorado River’s water managers and users to the cusp of adopting the Drought Contingency Plan, a temporary yet broad agreement to reduce water use and ensure that the reservoirs continue to provide a reliable water supply.
California’s largest lake has long attracted visitors. Many go there year-round to see thousands of birds congregating around the lake and its nearby habitats, but the lake is changing and that’s changing bird populations.
With another deadline missed Monday, the head of the Bureau of Reclamation is now looking for the governors in the states in the Colorado River basin to tell her what they think she should do to keep water levels from dropping even lower. But there’s just two weeks for them to do that.
Imperial Irrigation District officials announced at a special board meeting late Friday that the federal Bureau of Reclamation has agreed to their condition that the drought contingency plan package include restoration of the Salton Sea. They said federal officials will write a strong letter of support backing IID’s requests for $200 million in Farm Bill funding for wetlands projects around the shrinking sea, which is California’s largest inland water body.
California’s Salton Sea, the state’s largest inland body of water, formed when a dam broke. It stayed alive fed by agricultural water runoff. Today, it’s water supply is slowing, and the sea is drying up and losing its place as a fishing and recreation hotspot. But … the Salton Sea is finding new life as haven for artists.
We hope the move by MWD — which in 2016 had played hardball of its own by linking its support of the Colorado River drought plan to federal and state support of a Delta water project — doesn’t again sidetrack true federal involvement at the Salton Sea.
Winter storms have blanketed the mountains on the upper Colorado River with snow. But even this year’s above-average snowpack won’t be nearly enough to make up for the river’s chronic overallocation, compounded by 19 years of drought and the worsening effects of climate change.
With a Monday deadline looming, the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California has offered to break an impasse on a seven-state Colorado River drought contingency package by contributing necessary water from its own reserves on behalf of the Imperial Irrigation District. It’s not help that IID is seeking, but Metropolitan general manager Jeffrey Kightlinger said he had no choice.
The Imperial Irrigation District wants $200 million for the Salton Sea, a massive, briny lake in the desert southeast of Los Angeles created when the Colorado River breached a dike in 1905 and flooded a dry lake bed. The district says if the federal government doesn’t commit to giving California the money, it won’t sign off on a multistate plan to preserve the river’s two largest reservoirs amid a prolonged drought.
Arizona’s efforts to finish a Colorado River drought plan are moving forward after leaders of the Gila River Indian Community announced that they will proceed with their piece of the deal. … The Gila River Indian Community’s involvement is key because the community is entitled to about a fourth of the water that passes through the Central Arizona Project Canal, and it has offered to kick in some water to make the drought agreement work.
The furrows in a 60-acre patch of dirt on Rodney and Tiffany Shedd’s Arizona farm still hold cotton scraps from last year’s crop. This year, that patch will stay barren for the first time in recent memory, thanks to the decline in Colorado River water for farms across Pinal County, one of America’s cotton-growing centers.
Rising temperatures can lower flow by increasing the amount of water lost to evaporation from soil and surface water, boosting the amount of water used by plants, lengthening the growing season, and shrinking snowpacks that contribute to flow via meltwater. … The researchers found that rising temperatures are responsible for 53% of the long-term decline in the river’s flow, with changing precipitation patterns and other factors accounting for the rest.
House Speaker Rusty Bowers on Tuesday withdrew his bill that would repeal state laws on when farmers forfeit their water rights — legislation that the Gila River Indian Community said would cause it to withdraw from the multi-state drought contingency plan. But Bowers’ move did not get the tribe to sign the papers agreeing to provide Arizona with the 500,000 acre-feet of water it needs to make the drought plan a reality.
Arizona Governor Doug Ducey steered away from the term “climate change” in order to garner political support for the state’s Colorado River drought plan, he indicated Friday in an interview with a Pima Community College newspaper. In that interview, he also avoided making any connection between climate change and the “drier future” (his preferred phrase) that Arizona faces. His omission bordered on a denial of the established links between the two.
The strategy of turning to groundwater pumping will test the limits of Arizona’s regulatory system for its desert aquifers, which targets some areas for pumping restrictions and leaves others with looser rules or no regulation at all. In Pinal County, which falls under these groundwater rules, the return to a total reliance on wells reflects a major turning point and raises the possibility that this part of Arizona could again sink into a pattern of falling groundwater levels — just as it did decades ago, before the arrival of Colorado River water.
Gov. Stephen Roe Lewis of the Gila River Indian Community said in a statement Thursday that a decision by House Speaker Rusty Bowers to move forward with a contentious water bill threatens the community’s plan to support the drought agreement. The Gila River Indian Community’s involvement is key because it’s entitled to about a fourth of the Colorado River water that passes through the Central Arizona Project’s canal.
Ominous predictions about the desert lake’s ecological collapse are beginning to occur. You can see this sea up close during our Lower Colorado River Tour, Feb. 27-March 1, when we will visit the fragile ecosystem and hear from several stakeholders working to address challenges facing the sea.
It’s all up to the Imperial Irrigation District. The fate of a seven-state plan to address dwindling Colorado River water supply now appears to rest squarely with the sprawling southeastern California water district. Its neighbor to the north, the Coachella Valley Water District, voted unanimously on Tuesday to approve interstate agreements that would conserve water for use by 40 million people and vast swaths of agricultural lands.
The Imperial Irrigation District holds among the oldest and largest rights to water from the Colorado River and is using that as leverage to get what it sees as a better deal in current drought contingency plan negotiations involving states that draw from the river. Among the hardball tactics IID is putting in play: A demand that the federal government provide $200 million for efforts to bolster the beleaguered Salton Sea.
Arizona and California aren’t done finishing a plan that would establish how states in the Colorado River Basin will ensure water for millions of people in the Southwest, said the head of the agency running the negotiations. … One challenge comes from the Imperial Irrigation District, a water utility that serves the Imperial Valley in southeastern California. It hasn’t signed California’s plan because it wants $200 million to restore the vanishing Salton Sea, the state’s largest lake.
A major deadline just passed without unanimous agreement among Western states over the future of the Colorado River, so the federal government is one step closer to stepping in on the dwindling river that provides water for 1-in-8 Americans. The path forward has become murkier for the drought-stricken region now in its 19th year of low water levels after a January 31 deadline failed to garner signed agreements from Arizona and California.
Did the goalposts just move on us? … Media reports suggest that Reclamation is lumping Arizona with California, which clearly did not meet the deadline, in its reasoning for taking an action that we had all hoped to avoid. It’s easy to feel betrayed by that, to conclude that Arizona was asked to move mountains and then when we did, we were told it still wasn’t good enough.
Communities along the Colorado River are facing a new era of drought and water shortages that is threatening their future. With an official water emergency declaration now possible, farmers, ranchers, and towns are searching for ways to use less water and survive. Third in a series.
On our Lower Colorado River Tour, Feb. 27-March 1, we will visit this fragile ecosystem that harbors 400 bird species and hear from several stakeholders working to address challenges facing the sea, including managers of the Imperial Irrigation District, the Salton Sea Authority and California’s appointed “Sea Czar,” assistant secretary on Salton Sea policy Bruce Wilcox.
More than 1,000 birds died at a lake in Southern California earlier this month, state wildlife officials announced Tuesday. The birds – primarily migratory water fowls such as Ruddy Ducks, Northern Shovelers, Black-necked Stilts and Gulls – died at the Salton Sea after contracting a contagious bacterial disease known as avian cholera
As the Southwest faces rapid growth and unrelenting drought, the Colorado River is in crisis, with too many demands on its diminishing flow. Now those who depend on the river must confront the hard reality that their supply of Colorado water may be cut off.
Gov. Doug Ducey will use his fifth State of the State speech Monday, Jan. 14, to try to corral the votes to approve a drought-contingency plan in the next 17 days or risk federal intervention. “We’re in a position now where we have a sense of urgency and focus on Arizona’s water situation,” the governor told the business community Friday in previewing the speech that kicks off the legislative session.
President Trump on Thursday signed the 2018 Farm Bill, which alters language in agricultural conservation programs to make the Salton Sea eligible for millions in new federal funding. … The bill’s inclusion of the Salton Sea could also nudge California closer to approving a Colorado River drought contingency plan.
The Imperial Irrigation District, which holds some of the oldest and largest rights to Colorado River water, on Monday tentatively agreed to a one-time contribution of up to 250,000 acre-feet of surplus water if needed to stave off shortages in Lake Mead. But they tacked on several last-minute conditions aimed at easing farmers’ fears of permanently losing water, and to force federal and state officials to guarantee funding for clean-up of the Salton Sea.
The Río Nuevo flows north from Mexico into the United States, passing through a gap in the border fence. The murky green water reeks of sewage and carries soapsuds, pieces of trash and a load of toxic chemicals from Mexicali, a city filled with factories that manufacture products from electronics to auto parts.
Four Salton Sea-area residents, all younger than 30, were united in their mission: Produce a documentary for and about their community, which has been devastated by environmental issues. As the Salton Sea in the east Coachella Valley continues to shrink, toxic dust and and other airborne issues continue to affect those in the surrounding areas.
The San Andreas fault begins its dangerous dance through California at the Salton Sea, at a spot that seismologists long have feared could be the epicenter of a massive earthquake. … A muddy spring mysteriously has begun to move at a faster pace through dry earth — first 60 feet over a few months, and then 60 feet in a single day, according to Imperial County officials.
Riverside County is moving forward with a Salton Sea restoration plan that officials say could generate more than $1 billion in tax revenue, which would help fund construction of a permanent, horseshoe-shaped lake at the north end of the dying sea.
Oct. 10 marked the 15th anniversary of the signing of the Quantification Settlement Agreement (QSA). The QSA created the nation’s largest transfer of water from agriculture to cities, building resilience and buffering Southern California from the impacts of the state’s recent drought while decreasing California’s reliance on the increasingly stressed Colorado River.
Once considered pipe dreams, the concept of saving the Salton Sea by tapping ocean water from Mexico, to keep the accidental salt lake from drying up, will get an official consideration at two meetings in the desert this week.
In November 2015, there was a rare celebration at the Salton Sea. More than 100 people gathered on a dry stretch of dirt at Red Hill Bay, where the lake’s shoreline was receding quickly. They were there to break ground on the Salton Sea’s first major restoration project, which would create hundreds of acres of habitat for migratory birds and help keep lung-damaging dust out of the air.
Frank Ruiz sees fewer birds at the Salton Sea these days. As salinity levels climb and kill fish in the giant but receding Coachella Valley lake, there are fewer white pelicans, brown pelicans and cormorants to be found, said Ruiz, the Salton Sea program director for Audubon California. “We’ve also seen a huge decline in other species like eared grebes,” he said.
With 10 days left for California lawmakers to pass bills this year, renewable energy companies are rallying around legislation that could jump-start geothermal energy development by the Salton Sea — and also give a boost to solar, wind and bioenergy.
The Comite Civico del Valle, an organization providing services to disadvantaged communities in the Imperial Valley, has received a $500,000 grant from the California Air Resource Board to expand its air monitoring program. With the grant, the organization is planning to expand their network of air monitors to the eastern Coachella Valley by adding 15 new monitors, in an effort to span the entirety of the Salton Sea Air Basin, which includes the Coachella Valley and parts of Imperial County.
Driving South on California Highway 86 along the Salton Sea’s barren, white shores, travelers are tempted to imagine themselves on another planet. The surreal vista of the Santa Rosa mountains, looming over the deep blue lake, its beaches gleaming like snow and surrounded by desert, all of it invites unearthly comparisons.
Californians approved the $4.1 billion bond measure Proposition 68 on Tuesday, giving a boost to California’s long-delayed and underfunded effort to build thousands of acres of wetlands around the shrinking Salton Sea.
The Salton Sea is steadily disappearing, and communities near it are literally being left in the dust. California’s largest body of water — located in Imperial County near the Mexico-U.S. border — has been sinking for years, and dust clouds containing heavy metals, agricultural chemicals and fine particulates connected to asthma and other diseases are harming young people in that area.
Assemblyman Eduardo Garcia watched with ill-disguised frustration as a hearing aimed at expediting state projects to restore habitat and control dust storms at the shrinking Salton Sea instead dissolved into discussion of why the efforts were falling further behind schedule. “We have a plan, we have money, there is additional money lined up, and we have a constituency — myself included — that is running out of patience,” Garcia (D-Coachella), chairman of the Assembly Committee on Water, Parks and Wildlife, said.
California leaders who represent the shrinking Salton Sea want the same kind of expedited action taken on restoring it as the Oroville spillway crisis had in 2017. … Assemblyman Eduardo Garcia questioned the agencies in charge of the project Tuesday at an oversight hearing over why it’s behind schedule.
Lt. Governor Gavin Newsom visited the Salton Sea on Thursday to witness up close the environmental and public health perils facing the communities surrounding the sea’s shrinking shoreline. … Newsom was in town because he sits on the California State Lands Commission, which met in Palm Springs later in the day.
Less than fifteen miles from where Beyonce took the stage at the Coachella Music Festival, the Salton Sea is in crisis. As evaporation causes the sea’s shoreline to recede, more of the toxic chemical matter previously embedded in the water is being exposed and swept up into the atmosphere by desert winds.
We explored the lower Colorado River where virtually every drop of the river is allocated, yet demand is growing from myriad sources — increasing population, declining habitat, drought and climate change.
The 1,450-mile river is a lifeline to 40 million people in the Southwest across seven states and Mexico. How the Lower Basin states – Arizona, California and Nevada – use and manage this water to meet agricultural, urban, environmental and industrial needs was the focus of this tour.
Hampton Inn Tropicana
4975 Dean Martin Drive, Las Vegas, NV 89118
California voters may experience a sense of déjà vu this year when they are asked twice in the same year to consider water bonds — one in June, the other headed to the November ballot.
Both tackle a variety of water issues, from helping disadvantaged communities get clean drinking water to making flood management improvements. But they avoid more controversial proposals, such as new surface storage, and they propose to do some very different things to appeal to different constituencies.
A year ago, California’s Natural Resources Agency issued a plan for the Salton Sea. That $383-million blueprint called for building thousands of acres of wetlands to control dust and revitalize the deteriorating habitats around the shrinking lake over the next 10 years.
The Salton Sea’s accelerating decline comes at the same time that water scarcity in the entire Colorado River Basin is fueling negotiations over the river’s future — and how much water agencies, cities and farmers will have to cut back if the southwest’s 18-year drought continues. Those negotiations are part of a process to create a new agreement called the Drought Contingency Plan.
Three and a half hours east of Los Angeles lies the Salton Sea, a manmade oasis in the heart of the Mojave Desert. … The Sea became a tourist hotspot in the 1950’s, perfect for swimming, boating, and kayaking. But now, people are coming here looking for something else.
Tickets are now on sale for the Water Education Foundation’s April 11-13 tour of the Lower Colorado River.
Don’t miss this opportunity to visit key sites along one of the nation’s most famous rivers, including a private tour of Hoover Dam, Central Arizona Project’s Mark Wilmer pumping plant and the Havasu National Wildlife Refuge. The tour also visits the Salton Sea, Slab City, the All-American Canal and farming regions in the Imperial and Coachella valleys.
Riverside County Supervisor V. Manuel Perez on Thursday proposed a $400 million plan to build a horseshoe-shaped lake on the north side of the Salton Sea — and to pay for it using a tax district and a new bond issue subject to voter approval. The proposal calls for a 4,200-acre lake, roughly double the size of Big Bear Lake.
Riverside County officials on Thursday unveiled a possible $400-million remedy for some of what ails the shrinking Salton Sea: record-high salinity levels, die-offs of fish, fewer birds and an immense “bathtub ring” of smelly playa prone to toxic dust storms.
Southern California’s Salton Sea, the largest lake in California, has seen its share of ups and downs since it was accidentally created in 1905 by Colorado River floodwaters. Now, already badly polluted by chemicals from agricultural irrigation runoff, which provides the lake’s inflow, the surrounding shoreline is in danger of becoming a toxic blight.
The Salton Sea is about to start shrinking more rapidly. A 2003 water transfer deal called for the Imperial Irrigation District to deliver “mitigation water” to the lake for 15 years. With those water deliveries ending in the final days of 2017, the lake’s decline will begin to accelerate.
This issue of Western Water discusses the challenges facing the Colorado River Basin resulting from persistent drought, climate change and an overallocated river, and how water managers and others are trying to face the future.
The Coachella Valley’s biggest water district recycles wastewater at three of its six sewage treatment plants, churning out water to irrigate golf courses, parks and lawns at housing developments. Now it’s proposing to reuse more water by converting a sewage plant in Thermal to a water-recycling plant.
In a mere seven weeks, hundreds of thousands of California residents will face a major deadline affecting the health of their families and their communities. On Dec. 31, water deliveries that have been staving off ecological disaster at the Salton Sea for 15 years will come to a halt, leaving an uncertain future for the entire region.
This three-day, two-night tour explored the lower Colorado River where virtually every drop of the river is allocated, yet demand is growing from myriad sources — increasing population, declining habitat, drought and climate change.
The 1,450-mile river is a lifeline to 40 million people in the Southwest across seven states and Mexico. How the Lower Basin states – Arizona, California and Nevada – use and manage this water to meet agricultural, urban, environmental and industrial needs is the focus of this tour.
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As the Salton Sea shrinks, California’s problems grow. … For decades the state and stakeholders have contemplated plans for the restoration and management of the lake. Significant progress was made on November 7 when the State Water Resources Control Board (SWRCB) accepted an agreement on a 10-year management plan.
California’s Water Resources Control Board described its new Salton Sea plan as a landmark agreement, but at least one expert is questioning the modified approach, calling it “Band-Aids to a very serious environmental disaster.” With water deliveries from the Colorado River coming to a halt at the end of this year, the shrinking lake will be reduced at an even faster rate, which the state says poses a public health risk due to particulate air pollution by dust blown from the exposed lake bed.
California’s top water regulators adopted an agreement that commits the state to following through on plans of building wetlands and controlling dust around the shrinking Salton Sea over the next 10 years. The order approved Tuesday by the State Water Resources Control Board sets targets for state agencies in building thousands of acres of ponds, wetlands and other dust-control projects around the lake.
California regulators on Tuesday approved a plan to spend nearly $400 million over 10 years to slow the shrinking of the state’s largest lake, a vital migratory stop for birds and a buffer against swirling dust in farming towns. Funding for the Salton Sea is unclear but the plan enjoyed support of major water agencies and environmental advocacy groups and preserves a fragile peace among urban and rural areas in California on distributing the state’s share of Colorado River water.
Earlier this month, a proposed bond measure in the California Legislature had included $280 million to pay for building thousands of acres of ponds, wetlands and other dust-control projects around the Salton Sea. This week, after negotiations among lawmakers, the amount earmarked for the Salton Sea was slashed to $200 million.
As state lawmakers debate far-reaching bills that could reshape the energy landscape in California and across the West, some groups are urging the Legislature to require new geothermal power plants at the Salton Sea before a key deadline Tuesday* night — but those groups can’t agree on what the geothermal mandate should look like.
Architects of the largest agricultural-to-urban water transfer in the nation’s history Thursday gave their blessing to the State Water Resources Control Board’s latest plan to aid the beleaguered Salton Sea. “We think the draft stipulated order is a good faith effort by multiple agencies to thoughtfully balance competing considerations in determining how to best implement a successful Salton Sea restoration strategy,” said Maureen Stapleton, general manager of the San Diego County Water Authority during the State Water Board Salton Sea workshop in Sacramento.
With less than four months left until a critical deadline when the Salton Sea will begin to shrink rapidly, residents and activists are pressing for California officials to secure funding and act quickly to avert a costly disaster. Some people who live around the lake are driving to Sacramento for a Thursday meeting of the State Water Resources Control Board …
Five months ago, California outlined a $383 million plan to control dust and build thousands of acres of wetlands around the shrinking Salton Sea. But that plan left agencies in the Imperial Valley unsatisfied because only $80.5 million has been approved so far – and they questioned whether the state would follow through and live up to its commitments over the next 10 years.
It’s been 14 years since California officials first approved the Black Rock power plant, which would have tapped a powerful geothermal reservoir along the shore of the Salton Sea and generated enough climate-friendly electricity to power about 200,000 homes.
The Imperial Irrigation District has been using its clout as the agency with the biggest water entitlement along the Colorado River to press for California officials to live up to their commitment that they will keep the Salton Sea from turning into an environmental disaster.
State Sen. Ben Hueso, D-San Diego, says the state needs millions more to help protect the [Salton Sea's] sensitive ecosystem. A pair of measures advancing in the Legislature aim to speed up state restoration efforts, and ask voters next year to approve a $500 million general obligation bond to improve environmental and air quality conditions.
The Salton Sea is a disaster in slow motion. For more than a century, California’s largest lake has been sustained by Colorado River water, which irrigates Imperial Valley farms and drains into the lake. But the Salton Sea will start shrinking rapidly at the end of this year, when increasing amounts of river water will be diverted from farms to cities.
A serious asthma crisis is afflicting communities around the Salton Sea. The southeastern corner of California has some of the worst air pollution in the country, where dirt from farmland and the open desert mixes with windblown clouds of toxic dust rising from the Salton Sea’s receding shores.
A decade ago, Guy McCaskie would stand on the shore of the Salton Sea and marvel at the vast masses of birds that congregated on the water and flew overhead. Nowadays he looks out over the lake and is saddened by how few birds he sees.
As California officials struggle to decide on long-term fixes for the receding lake, there’s new momentum around an old idea: importing seawater from Mexico’s Sea of Cortez, and using the area’s plentiful geothermal power to desalinate that water. A subsidiary of Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway Energy, which already operates 10 geothermal plants in the area, is developing a seawater desalination proposal and has pitched it to lawmakers in Sacramento.
California’s largest lake is drying up. The Salton Sea has been shrinking for years, and fish and birds have been dying. The dry lakebed already spews toxic dust into the air, threatening a region with hundreds of thousands of people. And the crisis is about to get much worse.
California’s largest lake, the Salton Sea, is an accident. It was created in 1905 when a levee broke on an irrigation canal, flooding a giant desert playa. Today it has become a sticking point in negotiations between three states over the future of the Colorado River. … To help us understand all this, Water Deeply recently spoke with Michael Cohen, a senior research associate at the Pacific Institute, a water policy think-tank based in Oakland.
Salton Sea advocates on Thursday cautiously celebrated the announcement of a 10-year state plan to complete projects designed to restore areas where migrating birds once proliferated and control toxic dust storms rising off expanses of smelly playa surrounding the shrinking salty lake.
After years of delays, California’s plans for the shrinking Salton Sea are finally starting to take shape. A $383 million plan released by the state’s Natural Resources Agency on Thursday lays out a schedule for building thousands of acres of ponds and wetlands that will cover up stretches of dusty lakebed and create habitat for birds as the lake recedes.
California Gov. Jerry Brown’s administration on Thursday proposed spending nearly $400 million over 10 years to slow the shrinking of the state’s largest lake just as it is expected to evaporate an accelerated pace.
Two days before President Donald Trump’s inauguration, outgoing Interior Secretary Sally Jewell laid out a game plan for averting serious water shortages along the Colorado River. … Her announcement accompanied a separate accord in which the Interior Department pledged to coordinate with California officials to manage the shrinking Salton Sea …
Several months ago, managers of water agencies in California, Arizona and Nevada were expressing optimism they could finalize a deal to use less water from the dwindling Colorado River before the end of the Obama administration.
The California Wildlife Conservation Board has awarded $14 million for Salton Sea wetland habitat restoration to sustain migrating birds and the fish they eat there, state officials announced Thursday, Nov. 17.
The Imperial Irrigation District has given California officials an ultimatum on the Salton Sea, demanding the state finalize a 10-year “roadmap” for the shrinking lake by the end of this year. The Imperial Valley water district made the appeal this week, urging state officials to uphold their responsibility to control dust and protect public health as the lake recedes.
The project, which involves the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Imperial Irrigation District, is one of several initial efforts underway to restore habitat and reduce windblown dust as the Salton Sea shrinks. The lake is about to begin receding rapidly.
It’s been about eight years since the Salton Sea was the epicenter of a swarm of earthquakes, but the abundance of temblors doesn’t necessarily indicate a larger one to come, a renowned seismologist says.
California’s Salton Sea and state-straddling Lake Tahoe would receive funding for environmental restoration under a bill set for Senate approval Thursday. More controversial water-related efforts remain stuck in Capitol Hill limbo, however.
When the Obama administration announced $30 million for Salton Sea restoration last month, local officials praised the federal government for finally starting to address the deterioration of California’s largest lake.
The Obama administration unveiled initiatives to help restore the Salton Sea and improve the region’s climate resilience, economy and public health as part of President Barack Obama’s visit to Lake Tahoe Wednesday.
The federal government is stepping up its commitment to the Salton Sea and exploring the possibility of buying geothermal energy from the Imperial Valley, in a series of moves that could help fund restoration projects at California’s largest lake and maybe pave the way for a multi-state agreement to use less Colorado River water.
An agreement by California to draw less water from the Colorado River to help boost water levels at Lake Mead could accelerate the shrinkage of the already precarious Salton Sea, endangering air quality and wildlife habitat.
Fearing an imminent public health threat, the director of the University of California, Irvine’s Salton Sea Initiative said the State Water Resources Control Board should step in and regulate the rate of water transferred from the Imperial Valley to coastal California as part of the Quantification Settlement Agreement. Tim Bradley, speaking recently before the State Water Board, said while there is “no question” about the right of the water transfer, “the question is does the withdrawal of water seriously affect the health of California?”
Fearing an imminent public health threat, the director of the University of California, Irvine’s Salton Sea Initiative said the State Water Resources Control Board should step in and regulate the rate of water transferred from the Imperial Valley to coastal California as part of the Quantification Settlement Agreement.
Sen. Barbara Boxer called for urgent steps to fix the problems of the deteriorating Salton Sea, saying state and federal agencies need to speed up efforts to control dust and protect habitat as California’s largest lake declines.
Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., called Thursday for local, state and federal agencies to hurry up and restore the Salton Sea, California’s largest lake. … Boxer made her comments after a briefing from local, state and federal officials about efforts to curb environmental damage from the steadily shrinking sea. The briefing was closed to the press.
If you’ve noticed the Salton Sea seems to be stinking a bit more often lately, you’re right. … The Salton Sea has also been gradually declining, and some scientists expect the odors to become more frequent in the coming years as the lake’s level continues to drop.
The lack of small fish and the sudden declines of some bird species at the Sonny Bono Salton Sea National Wildlife Refuge could be signs that the lake’s overburdened ecosystem is starting to unravel and deteriorate. … The lake is also showing other symptoms of decay.
Assembly member Eduardo Garcia’s $3.1 billion bond proposal includes $25 million for air quality mitigation and the creation of wildlife habitat at the Salton Sea. The California Natural Resources Agency, thanks to a previous bill carried by Garcia, includes a list of shovel-ready projects on the lakebed.
Observers often wax apocalyptic when talking about the Salton Sea, and part of that narrative is the inevitable reminder that this blight isn’t natural, that the sea only exists because the Colorado River breached a man-made canal in 1905. But to millions of birds, the Salton Sea’s creation was a godsend.
Because the Imperial Irrigation District holds the single largest entitlement to water from the [Colorado] river, its participation would be vital in any agreement for California to share in water cutbacks to avert a looming shortage in Lake Mead, the nation’s largest reservoir. But major hurdles remain for the district to support a potential deal, and the reasons begin with the shrinking Salton Sea.
A major water resources bill introduced Tuesday in the Senate would allow the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to partner with local governments and other agencies – not just California officials – on projects to address the problems of the shrinking Salton Sea.
Earth Day, celebrated today across the globe, reminds us of the fragile state of our planet. From land contaminated with toxic chemicals to bad air spewed into the atmosphere, the most of us have been affected by pollution in some way. To bring all of this closer to home, we’re listing the 10 most critical environmental problems in Southern California.
For the first time in years the Salton Sea Recreation Area has a public boat launch. The public-private partnership that built the launch hope it brings more fishing, water skiing and recreational boating to California’s largest lake, which has been sinking and which scientists say is need of environmental rescue.
Last Sunday, a U.S. businessman teamed up with an environmental activist to organize an expedition from the Salton Sea to the Laguna Salada. Their goal was to drum up support for a plan to import water from Mexico to the Salton Sea.
Although there are some short- and medium-term fixes already in the works, the job of saving the Salton Sea is a long-term proposition – one that requires planning well into the next decades. A group of local leaders – known as the Long Range Plan Committee – has been assembled under the auspices of the California Natural Resources Agency to convene a series of meetings to listen to presentations that address long-term solutions for the sea.
The federal government plans to spend $3 million this year constructing a new wetland along the Alamo River in order to rehabilitate habitats and help clean up some of the polluted water flowing into the Salton Sea.
Planners working on the preservation of the Salton Sea envision a smaller version surviving indefinitely, with some of the costs for its maintenance recovered by economic development which may include geothermal, the harvest of algae, or something else, officials said during a conference at the UC Riverside.
Gov. Jerry Brown’s $122.6 billion budget plan out Thursday contained $80.5 million for the restoration of habitat at the shrinking Salton Sea, the creation of a longterm plan for the lake’s management, and is raising hopes for its restoration, officials said.
At least at the Salton Sea, the district’s [Imperial Irrigation District] hardball tactics seem to be working: There’s been more political progress this year than ever before. Gov. Jerry Brown has asked for a plan of action, and several long-stalled pilot projects are finally getting underway.
The Salton Sea is just a few years away from becoming a massive public health and environmental disaster. But if that bleak future doesn’t come to pass, the Coachella and Imperial valleys might look back at Nov. 5, 2015, as the day the tide started to turn.
The California Natural Resources Agency will move forward with the projects in the coming months and work with Colorado River officials to accelerate planning, permitting and construction, the governor’s office said.
Gov. Jerry Brown has signed a bill to require the Salton Sea Authority, working with the Natural Resources Agency, to study projects to restore parts of the rapidly shrinking Salton Sea, a huge and troubled body of water considered a health menace.
Long gone are the luxury boats that drew stars inland from Hollywood to this accidental sea that first filled with Colorado River water after a massive 1905 canal breach. … The Southwest’s worsening water shortage will make saving the Salton Sea difficult, because any fix requires water from an over-stressed Colorado River.
Community activists, politicians and water officials from the Imperial and Coachella valleys went to the state water board in Sacramento six months ago with a plea: Avoid a “looming catastrophe” at the Salton Sea. … Two weeks ago, two top officials from the Imperial Valley returned to the water board to complain that virtually nothing has been done.
To save the Salton Sea, the Imperial Irrigation District might want to let it dry up faster. That’s one of the recommendations from California’s Little Hoover Commission, an independent agency that investigates state government operations and makes recommendations to the state Legislature.
Residents in the Coachella Valley are used to the seasonal rotten-egg stench from the Salton Sea, but not for nine days in a row. … In 2017, water to the sea will decrease greatly when an agreement to transfer water from farms to San Diego kicks into high gear.
Call it a first step. … The Imperial Irrigation District has released a 260-page document that provides short, medium and long-term plans to avert a health crises and spur the development of up to 1,700 megawatts of new geothermal energy at the Salton Sea.
The $3.15 billion would fund shovel-ready pilot projects and new geothermal energy development around the Salton Sea, California’s largest lake. The money would come from several sources, including fees from companies that emit planet-warming greenhouse gases and the $7.5 billion water bond that voters approved in November.
The Imperial Irrigation District has filed an antitrust lawsuit against the manager of most of the state’s electricity grid, alleging that it is using its monopoly power to limit options for the district, which is a major player in the effort to mitigate the shrinking Salton Sea.
The shallow, briny inland lake at the southeastern edge of California is slowly evaporating and becoming more saline – threatening the habitat for fish and birds and worsening air quality as dust from the dry lakebed is whipped by the constant winds.
(Read this excerpt from the May/June 2015 issue along with the editor’s note. Click here to subscribe to Western Water and get full access.)
Six days, 116 miles: That is Randy Brown’s goal, starting Tuesday, June 9. From June 9 to 14, the Rancho Cucamonga website developer plans a grueling trek around the Salton Sea, on the edge of the desert between Riverside and Imperial counties.