The last ten years and a new administration has not changed the inevitable demise of the Salton Sea and only reinforced what CURE warned about 20 years ago.
Predictably, the public merely witnessed the California state government fabricate whatever explanations they could to placate the frustrated public after spending hundreds of millions of tax dollars on more fruitless studies and legal fees.
Respiratory and other unseen illnesses are on the steep upturn with the highest percentage of California’s Covid-19 cases in poorer communities along the shore of the Salton Sea. Government promises to fund community based solutions have all but dried up along with the shoreline of these areas.
One of the clearest example of a lost opportunity was the State’s failure to follow through with a “shovel-ready” project involving the Red Hill Marina Wetland Project. Led by IID & the US Fish & Wildlife Service, this project passed CEQA planning in January of 2015 with IID Board support. With their typical self-congratulatory ribbon cutting, bueaucrats broke ground on the long-awaited 420 acre wetland project at the south end of the drying Salton Sea. This project was intended to restore the most emissive ground to create an “ark” for the millions of animals that are dying. Permitting, planning, and designs were completed, and initial construction activities began in 2016. After groundbreaking took place, the project team cut furrows for water movement and laid pipes to mix water of varying salinity. They had tractors working on the beach for years. Something was almost actually built.. Instead of finishing the project, after many access and easement disputes, the project team inexplicably pulled up the pipelines and stopped work. As of December 2020, the Sea is again immersed in legal battles benefitting once again the lawyers. More info on the order for abatement from Imperial County’s Air Pollution Control District to Imperial Irrigation District: https://calexicochronicle.com/2020/12/calexico-local-news/violation-hearing-against-iid -is-continued/
Meanwhile, this area has become one of the most emissive at the Sea, spurring massive contaminated dust storms rolling over crops, homes and businesses. Friends of ours started this petition to support restoration efforts at Red Hill Bay: https://www.change.org/p/imperial-county-restore-red-hill-bay-habitat-at-salton-sea
In contrast to the government’s failure at Red Hill, a few volunteers restored one of the few resilient wetlands at the Salton Sea in the south end of the Sea between Red Hill Marina and
the geothermal mud pots. It was reportedly created by duck hunters armed with cement chunks, carpet rolls, shovels, and beer over a few hot weeks, after they realized their abundant hunting grounds would quickly dry up without physical intervention. It’s birdy, beautiful, and one of the few places on 100 miles of this beautiful California shoreline you can still simply use a trailered boat launch.
As the former Mayor of the West Shores (Salton City, Vista del Mar, Salton Sea Beach, and Desert Shores), I’ve seen many businesses and dreams shuttered. None of the state-sponsored projects crafted by lawyers, bureaucrats and over paid consultants have been designed where affected people actually live. Quality of life for so many residents, businesses and the environment has been adversely impacted with little hope in site.
In contrast government inaction and waste, the Desert Shores Restoration project, led by community volunteers, has been gaining significant ground, and hopefully soon, water. Engineering planning is underway, donations of land, fees, materials and support have been flowing, and Imperial County has stepped in to support the efforts of a project that will provide deep water habitat next to existing homes. You can watch a video of December 2020 updates here on Facebook. CURE supports these efforts, and although the Salton Sea will continue to be a place of great challenges, the light still remains on.
To date, only 112 acres have “officially” mitigated as part of the State of California’s so-called “Ten Year Plan” As Malissa McKeith, president of CURE, testified before the State Water board this year, the actual cost of that acreage is more than what people pay in Beverly Hills.
- Kerry Morrison CURE Correspondent