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”

S.O.S: The Military and the Salton Sea

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 [1]. 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 [2]. Continue reading “S.O.S: The Military and the Salton Sea”

Powell’s Premonition

The panel discussion we hosted at UC Riverside highlighted the growing effort to coordinate local, state, and federal entities in an attempt to save the Salton Sea.  However, it also highlighted some of the glaring reasons that efforts to manage the Sea have consistently come up short. The Salton Sea has long suffered from dual problems: conflicting interests amongst stakeholders and lack of a distinct, legally responsible party. These compounding problems are not isolated to the Salton Sea. In fact they are the two most common problems in poorly managed water resources today.      Continue reading “Powell’s Premonition”

Fun in the Salton Sun

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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”

Natural or Not?

If man flooded it, can it still be considered natural?

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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?”

The Other Changing Sea Level

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In his final State of the Union address, President Obama put more emphasis on climate change than ever before [1]. Scientists no longer dispute the fact that humans are having an impact on the earth, and global leaders have come to an agreement that involves taking actions to fight climate change and mitigate its negative effects [2].

The impacts of climate change are already visible around the world, from extreme storms and fluctuating temperatures, to long droughts and threatened Continue reading “The Other Changing Sea Level”

Mexico and the Salton Sea

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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”

Water Rights and the Salton Sea

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For a long time now, the Salton Sea has been close to the bottom of the priority list when it comes to water allocations and this has placed the Sea in a very tight spot. We have discussed extensively the consequences of allowing the Sea to dry and the temporary solutions outlined under the QSA. It has been recognized by the many stakeholders that the Salton Sea needs help but not much has been done. The Salton Sea needs a long-term solution that could give it hope for a sustainable future. Given the current conditions of the Salton Sea and the implications of allowing it to dry, perhaps an ambitious solution would be to incorporate the Salton Sea into future revisions of regional water laws. Continue reading “Water Rights and the Salton Sea”

The Torres-Martinez Band of Desert Cahuilla Indians

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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.

Obtained from http://www.epa.gov/air/particles/designations/2006standards/rec/letters/T_Torres_Martinez_Tribal_Council_CMT.pdf
Figure 1. Map of the Torres-Martinez reservation and surrounding area. Click to enlarge. Obtained from http://www.epa.gov/air/particles/designations/2…

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 [1].

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”

Myths and Mistruths, Vol. 2

Welcome back for some more myth debunking! Last time we talked about the unlikely possibility of a ship full of pearls being sunk at the bottom of the Salton Sea. But I also mentioned several other prevalent myths or mistruths that other posts on this blog have now addressed:

“The Salton Sea is not safe to swim in.” ——————————————– BUSTED!

“It is a toxic dump created by agricultural pesticides.” ——————— BUSTED!

Geothermal energy is expensive and not competitive.” ——————- BUSTED!

“The Salton Sea is a marginal ecological and economical resource.” – BUSTED!

Perhaps one of the most tossed-around misunderstandings surrounding the Sea is this:

“The Salton Sink would be dry right now were it not for the accident in 1905. Therefore, we should just let the Sea dry up.”

While this argument is convenient for those who consider the Sea a lost cause, it is all bark and no bite. Continue reading “Myths and Mistruths, Vol. 2”