The Salton Sea is home to a diverse group of people, but the two most controversial groups are the ones you don’t see. Evidence of both groups can be found at the infamous make-shift town of Slab City, which is home to retired snowbirds and squatters and a former home of the US Marine Corp. Slab City is built upon the former grounds of the abandoned WWII training site, Camp Dunlap. As highlighted by Denise Goolby in The Desert Sun, the Salton Sea has had a major military presence since WWII . The US Navy is the biggest military force at the Sea, where the site has been used to train Naval airmen for decades. The Naval Air Facility El Centro and the Chocolate Mountain Aerial Gunnery Range are still active in the region with the Gunnery Range being one of the most important Navy and Marine training sites in the country due to its remote location and desert conditions similar to the Middle East . Continue reading “S.O.S: The Military and the Salton Sea”
There has been a recent surge in interest in recreation at the Salton Sea, including the upcoming SEAthletes SEATalk and North Shore Xtreme recreation event, aimed at bringing more public attention to the Sea. However, this is only one chapter in a long history of public recreation at the Salton Sea. Continue reading “Fun in the Salton Sun”
Visit the Sea for bird watching, boating, camping, hiking or hunting!
For those less familiar with the Salton Sea, it is not normally thought of as a modern day recreational destination. However, the Salton Sea is a popular site for campers, boaters, anglers, hunters and more. The southern shore is home to the Sonny Bono wildlife refuge, and many state managed duck and geese blinds for waterfowl hunters. Along the north shore of the Sea, 14 miles of shoreline have been designated for recreation, known as the Salton Sea State Recreation Area (SRA). This area provides access to kayaking, boating, camping, bird watching, photography and hiking . Continue reading “Recreation at the Salton Sea”
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”
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”
So far, this blog has discussed extensively the ecological and socio-economic consequences of allowing the Salton Sea to dry up. The decline in the air quality around the Salton Sea due to exposed playa is a problem that will extend to many cities in the southwestern U.S., the economic burden of allowing the Sea to dry will be shared among all Californians, and water allocations that impact the Sea are decided by intra-state agreements. Without a doubt, the Salton Sea is a complex system that must involve not only the local communities, but also different states and even nations. An important player that has largely been left out of discussions thus far is our neighbor to the south, Mexico. Continue reading “Mexico and the Salton Sea”
Last week, an article was published by KCET that addressed the question of Why Don’t Californians Care About Saving the Salton Sea? The authors conclude that the seemingly artificial nature of the Sea is what keeps it from gaining public support, especially by environmental activists. However, I would argue that the real issue with getting Californians to care about the Salton Sea is an issue of environmental justice. Residents of the Salton Sea region are among the poorest in the country, and simply don’t have the affluence to attract the level of attention that saving the Sea requires. In southern California, this makes it difficult to compete with the interests of neighborhoods like Beverly Hills and La Jolla.
However, we can see some progress being made to address these issues. Last month, California Governor Jerry Brown took action on some key legislation for the Coachella Valley, including the bills AB 2 and AB 1059. Continue reading “A Clean Bill(s) of Health for Salton Sea Residents”
Much like the Salton Sea, many inland bodies of water suffer from rising salinity, which can harm biota and prevent beneficial water use. This salinization occurs when soil, which contains salts and minerals, is mobilized from clearing natural vegetation or when fresh water is diverted for irrigation.  As irrigation water and drinking water sources become increasingly salty, different solutions become necessary to recover freshwater. Saudi Arabia is the world’s leader in desalination, which is the industrial process of removing salt from water, with 50% of the nation’s drinking water recovered from seawater.  At the Salton Sea, desalination is being explored as a part of habitat restoration efforts. Continue reading “Desalting the Sea: Part 1”
Several months ago, the Torres Martinez tribe announced that they will be growing medical marijuana on tribal lands in the near future. The income from this growing operation could provide the Torres Martinez tribe, and the surrounding area, with a much needed economic boost. However, large-scale growing of the water-intensive marijuana plant may pose an environmental risk in an area already gripped by drought.
The Torres-Martinez Band of Desert Cahuilla Indians has resided in the northern region of the Salton basin since 1876, when President Ulysses S. Grant officially established their tribe through an executive order. Members of the modern day Torres-Martinez Band have a large investment in the Salton Sea, literally. Over 10,000 acres of their Native American Reservation, nearly half of the total checker-boarded 24,800 acres, lie under the surface of the Sea, unreachable by the tribe until the water line recedes (Figure 1). However, the story of this underwater acreage is often reported incorrectly.
When the Salton Sea was formed in 1905, the Torres-Martinez did not own much, if any of the affected land. Rather in 1909, an amendment to the Mission Indian Relief Act granted the Torres-Martinez an additional 12,000 acres of land, 9,000 of which were beneath the newly formed Salton Sea. However, this was not meant to be a practical joke played by the federal government. Based on the evaporation rate of the Sea at the time, most people expected the land to be dry and available to the tribe within 25 years .
Then, agriculture in the Salton Sea region began to take off in the years following, and natural runoff and irrigation drainage from the Imperial, Coachella, and Mexicali Valleys has kept most of the Torres-Martinez land submerged. Continue reading “The Torres-Martinez Band of Desert Cahuilla Indians”