Gov. Jerry Brown orders study aiming to restore parts of shrinking Salton Sea
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.
The bill, sponsored by Assemblyman Eduardo Garcia (D-Coachella), requires the Natural Resources Agency to submit to the Legislature by March 31 a list of “shovel-ready” projects, including information about potential costs and timeline for completion.
As the sea has shrunk, exposing previously submerged areas, toxic dust storms have increased in the Coachella and Imperial valleys, and a rotten-egg smell has drifted to much of coastal Southern California. The Pacific Institute, an Oakland-based environmental study group, has warned that the region faces an environmental catastrophe if the sea continues to disappear.
The Salton Sea Authority, a joint-powers agency created in 1993, is comprised of the Imperial Irrigation District, the Coachella Valley Water District, Riverside and Imperial counties and the Torres Martinez Desert Cahuilla Indians.
The Salton Sea Task Force, led by the California Natural Resources Agency and the California Environmental Protection Agency, has set a goal of restoring 12,000 acres of shoreline habitat in the next five years and up to 25,000 acres of additional exposed shoreline starting in 2020. Those goals will depend on the availability of funding.
Last month, Brown appointed Bruce Wilcox, a Salton Sea specialist with the Imperial Irrigation District, as assistant secretary of natural resources for Salton Sea policy, a new job.
Officials at the Imperial Irrigation District and the Imperial County Board of Supervisors went to the state water board last month to complain that the state has not fulfilled a promise made in 2003 to halt, or at least slow, the shrinkage of the Salton Sea.
The promise was made to persuade the Imperial Irrigation District to sell a share of its annual allotment from the Colorado River to the San Diego County Water Authority.
As water is sold to San Diego, the amount of runoff into the Salton Sea has decreased, leaving pesticide-laden soil exposed to the air.
As part of the 2003 agreement, the Imperial Irrigation District is required to put Colorado River water directly into the Salton Sea until the end of 2017.
State officials, to win the district’s support for the water sale, had promised that after 2017, the state would take responsibility for the Salton Sea’s problems. So far, that has not occurred.
The shrinkage of the sea will increase rapidly after 2017 when the Imperial Irrigation District no longer provides water directly from the Colorado River.
The perils of parenting through a pandemic
What’s going on with school? What do kids need? Get 8 to 3, a newsletter dedicated to the questions that keep California families up at night.
You may occasionally receive promotional content from the Los Angeles Times.