This will sustain natural habitats, further reduce salinity levels, and reduce the draw demand on the Colorado River. IntroductionThe Salton Sea (Sea) is an ecosystem facing large systemic changes in the near future. Estimates of water use and trends in the Colorado River Basin, Southwestern United States, 1985–2010. Boons or boondoggles : An assessment of the Salton Sea water importation options. An alternative option is to pay growers to allow more Colorado River water to flow to the Sea: growers would be paid for unused water by fallowing fields, by using more efficient irrigation methods, or by using less water in whatever way they deemed best (fallowing, irrigation improvements, deficit irrigation or a combination of the three). Managers and stakeholders are seeking solutions to the decline of the Sea and have turned to the scientific community for answers. Again, between $US28 and $US62 million are the comparative costs for transferring agricultural water to the Salton Sea. Hanak E, Lund J, Dinar A, Gray B, Howitt R (2011). While cases of urban, agricultural, and environmental uses vying for scarce water resources can be found worldwide, the Salton Sea region in California is a poignant example. But California independent voters are starting to receive a lot more attention these days and much of that is due to the California Independent Voter Project (CAIVP). Under the authority of the state legislature (AB 71), and in cooperation with the California Natural Resources Agency, the Salton Sea Authority has produced a Financial Feasibility Action Plan. Property values and recreation are decreasing. 10 questions about the 11 proposals to save the Salton Sea. Add 110°F temperatures and 90% humidity and you have the perfect recipe for stink-soup. Without an expensive reshaping, or even with, a central and controversial issue is from where the water is going to come from to maintain the Sea. The Salton Sea Authority is a Joint Powers Authority (JPA) empowered to revitalize the Salton Sea in consultation and cooperation with state and federal governments. TRC is a global construction and engineering consulting firm that provides technology-enabled solutions to the power, oil & gas, environmental and infrastructure markets. First up is the badly delayed Salton Sea Management Plan. WESTMORLAND — The California Salton Sea Management Program began construction this week on a nearly 4,000-acre project to restore bird and fish habitat and improve conditions for local communities near the southern tip of the Salton Sea. ‘Fixing’ the Salton Sea would mean addressing both habitat loss and playa exposure, as such both quantity and quality of water need to be considered. While importing ocean water has additional concerns (particularly damages to the fragile Sea of Cortés), it could theoretically be a source of large volumes of water if combined with expensive desalinization. September 4th, 2020. The Salton Sea Management Program's 10-year plan seeks to cover about 30,000 acres of exposed playa in dust suppression projects and restored habitat by 2028. Salton Sea State Recreation Area Update (Dec. 7, 2020): California has issued a Regional Stay at Home Order to stop the surge of COVID-19 cases and prevent a strain on the health care system. Set a medium-term plan to construct 18,000 acres to 25,000 acres of habitat and dust suppression projects. Several proposals to ‘fix’ the sea are being considered. By clicking “Accept”, you agree to the storing of cookies on your device to enhance site navigation, analyze site usage, and assist in our marketing efforts. The costs for a similar quantity of water if purchased from agricultural users would be around $US28 million per year. But the leading contender for a fix may prove to be only a short-term solution. i) Flooding. One way under consideration consists of importing ocean water from the Sea of Cortés via transnational conveyance. Saving California’s Salton Sea: Are the solutions boons or boondoggles? Our more recent work1 compares the costs of these two importation schemes: importing water from the Sea of Cortés and transferring agricultural water to the Salton Sea. Controlled Thermal Resources (CTR) and technology partner Lilac Solutions (Lilac), have joined forces to extract lithium from one of the world’s largest known geothermal resources at the Salton Sea in Imperial Valley, California, according to a release by the companies today.. But ultimately the $8.9-billion plan failed, too. This action will help protect critical care for patients. Of the wetlands that existed in California 150 years ago, less than 10 percent remain today. The Salton Sea’s problems are symptomatic of problems across the Colorado River basin.  California’s Salton Sea is a fertile oasis in the hostile desert of southeastern California, adopted by millions of birds migrating along the Pacific Flyway. However, as shown, little action has been taken. Over the last century, while California and northern México lost 90 percent of their wetlands, the Salton Sea endured, courtesy of agricultural drainage water, and became critical habitat for millions of migratory birds, and year-round habitat for endangered and sensitive species, including the desert pupfish, Yuma clapper rail, and burrowing owl6,7. In response, the Imperial Irrigation District has filed suit against the Metropolitan Water District, arguing in July of this year (2020) that their actions were politically motivated, and as the environmental impacts of their potential additional water storage were not evaluated, in violation of the California Environmental Protection Act13. While the Salton Sea may be a well known example (at least in North America) of ecosystem decline, there are surely hundreds of other such sites across the world where ecosystem nightmares have resulted from humankind’s rush to develop short-term solutions … 2. Flows into the Salton Sea have declined in recent years, and the result is a shrinking, increasingly saline lake. Flooding may not be the most serious problem at Salton Sea, but it is among the most immediate. The smell at Salton Sea comes from the fish die-offs. U.S. United States Bureau of Reclamation (2019). At the same time, endangered environmental and ecological resources represent a third sector, non-market, but not non-valuable. To achieve roughly the long-term historic average of Salton Sea inflows (1.3 million acre-feet), importing water from México would run between $US6.7 to $US13.3 billion initially plus $US12 to $US42 million per year; for transferring water from agricultural uses, the cost would be approximately $62 million annually. Provide a healthy environment for residents around the Sea; Work toward a Salton Sea and bordering habitat that sustains enough aquatic life to provide habitat for wildlife on the Pacific flyway; Help revitalize the economy around the Salton Sea and in Imperial and Riverside Counties; Read the Salton Sea Funding and Feasibility Action Plan.  The one hold out of this plan? State of the Salton Sea—A science and monitoring meeting of scientists for the Salton Sea. Progress made by the program will be overseen by the State Water Resources Control Board and California Air Resources Board. Sinclair. In 2018, the then Assistant Secretary for Salton Sea Policy, Bruce Wilcox, spoke of importing Sea of Cortés water, saying15: “We don’t want to delay building habitat and air quality that’s needed at the Salton Sea to spend two years evaluating something that may work but also may not.”. Fish and Wildlife Services (2011). The most expensive and comprehensive of these suggested re-engineering the shape and size of the Sea, allowing it to be sustained with lower flows. Advertisement. Damages are not limited to habitat. It lies between, and within, the Imperial and Coachella valleys, all of which lie within the larger Salton Trough, a pull-apart basin that stretches to the Gulf of California in Mexico. Grander schemes include a $9 billion restoration project the state proposed in 2007, as well as a perennial pitch to pump water from the Pacific Ocean or the Sea of Cortez, which would also cost billions. Population growth, drought, and climate change have led to increasing tension among agricultural, municipal, and environmental users of water in many regions. Boons or boondoggles Later in 2008, Gov. Although solutions for the Salton Sea appear daunting and extremely expensive, the panel gave stakeholders the opportunity to review two practical small-scale projects designed to help maintain habitat for waterfowl and other birds. The Lost River: Mexicans fight for mighty waterway taken by the US. This paper has examined SB 277 the Salton Sea Restoration Act, which was intended to provide sustainable solutions to the many challenges. Salton Sea Solutions In the tug-of-war of partisan politics, sometimes the independent voter can feel a bit neglected and left out of the political game. This fact has been highlighted in recent developments due to ongoing drought and climate change in the region. But renewed attacks over the water transfer, and its effects on the Salton Sea, helped sink Kuhn’s bid for a fifth term in 2020. However, the damages to the Salton Sea habitat and the health of the vulnerable population residing in the region require immediate attention. And in February the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation said it would … Regardless, importing water from México would be quite expensive and – given the history surrounding Colorado River flows14 – nowhere near a certainty. There is no shortage of ideas about how to fix the Salton Sea. Information on the SSMP can be found at this link: The Salton Sea Management Program, Salton Sea Management Program – Phase I: 10-Year Plan. It wasn't until January 2016 that the California legislature approved $80 million for the Salton Sea — the state's largest-ever allocation. Copyright 2017 © The Salton Sea Authority, Restoring Sea Access via North Shore Beach and Yacht Club, SB 272 Section 6270.5 Enterprise System Catalog, Meet a short-term goal of 9,000 acres to 12,000 acres of habitat and dust suppression projects, and. But are such proposals projects of value or fool’s errands? Millions of fish die and wash up onto the shore and rot – and rotting fish stink. Why buying water from farmers to save rivers makes sense (and why we’re NOT doing it in the Basin), https://pubs.er.usgs.gov/publication/sir20185049, http://www.ppic.org/content/pubs/report/R_211EHR.pdf, http://ca.audubon.org/conservation/conservation/important-bird-areas/salton-sea?page=1, https://www.fws.gov/saltonsea/endangered species.html, https://www.sdcwa.org/sites/default/files/files/QSA_final.pdf, https://www.desertsun.com/story/news/2019/01/31/california-imperial-irrigation-district-200-million-dollar-salton-sea-colorado-river-drought-plan/2733780002/, https://www.iid.com/home/showdocument?id=18610, https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2019/oct/21/the-lost-river-mexicans-fight-for-mighty-waterway-taken-by-the-us, https://www.desertsun.com/story/news/politics/2018/04/16/ten-questions-eleven-proposals-save-salton-sea/516602002/. Read more about the 10-year Phase I Plan here. Responding to growing public pressure to restore the Salton Sea, a multiagency government committee was created in 1993 known as the Salton Sea Authority to initiate, aid, and oversee restoration efforts. A smaller Salton Sea likely means more dust, dangerous pollutants. After 15 years of delays and broken promises, California is far behind on plans for heading off a costly environmental disaster. Greater Palm Springs Convention and Visitors Bureau commissioned the highly respected Tourism Economics firm of Oxford, England to analyze potential economic impacts of two improvement scenarios at the Salton Sea. Searching for a ‘fix’ Imperial Irrigation District wants $200M for Salton Sea in exchange for Colorado River drought plan OK. Petitioner Imperial Irrigation District’s Opening Brief in Support of Petition for Writ of Mandate (2020). Superior Court of the State of California for the County of Los Angeles; (July 8, 2020). 3 - Expand and Prosper Improving Conditions at California’s Salton Sea. The Salton Sea is a shallow, saline, endorheic rift lake on the San Andreas Fault at the southern end of the U.S. state of California. Here she describes how she and colleagues assessed the Salton Sea water importation options and what’s at stake. Its latest incarnation began at the turn of the 20th century, when the second lowest point in the United States was flooded by Colorado River water being brought into California for irrigation. Arnold Schwarzenegger signed a bill meant to accelerate the distribution of money for Salton Sea restoration. The challenges of water governance in the 21st century, Lucia Levers, University of Minnesota, US. At the beginning of last year (2019), the Imperial Irrigation District wanted to force the federal government to take some responsibility for the looming Salton Sea disaster and provide funding ($US200 million) for the Sea12. Buying water for the environment: A hydro-economic analysis of Salton Sea inflows. Levers LR, Story SD & Schwabe KA (2020). Even México agreed to potential reductions in deliveries, provided the DCP was adopted. Over time, urban centers eyeing the Imperial Irrigation District (IID)’s water for their growing populations led to out-of-region transfer agreements, the most notable of which is the 2003 Quantification Settlement Agreement (QSA), a federal-state-local agreement that allowed the transfer of a large amount of irrigation water from IID to urban users in Southern California8. (760) 399-5955. Levers LR, Skaggs TH, Schwabe KA (2019). Worldwide, irrigated agriculture accounts for two-thirds of freshwater withdrawals. Yet, this habitat is sustained by drainage water, which brings with it salts, fertilizers, and pesticides. The emphasis on expediency is particularly ironic, as two years has already passed since Secretary Wilcox’s statement. We estimate the annualized costs for importing water from the México to range from $US223 to $US908 million, with a few assumptions regarding interest rates and pipeline longevity. If the Salton Sea is to be rehabilitated, it will require a concerted effort by all interested parties. (Westmorland, Calif., January 13, 2021) – The California Salton Sea Management Program began construction this week on a nearly 4,000-acre project to restore bird and fish habitat and improve conditions for nearby communities at the southern end of the Salton Sea. The deepest point of th… The Salton Sea is about to shrink drastically. The Species Conservation Habitat Project (SCH) is designed to reduce wind-borne dust on each side of the … Metz S (2018). Case No. The region has hosted vast amounts of water in different forms over the years. The levels of the main reservoirs on the Colorado have been dropping—and getting closer to triggering impressive water delivery cuts via agreements made during a time with less demand and more supply. Governor Edmund G. Brown Jr.’s Salton Sea Task Force, created in May 2015, has directed agencies to develop a comprehensive management plan for the Sea that will: The Financial Feasibility Action Plan serves as the foundation for the State’s comprehensive Salton Sea Management Program. Present Significant Problems. Please see the Global Water Forum terms and conditions here. Southern California's Salton Sea has lost much of the appeal it once enjoyed with tourists. Hold outs and hurdles Brine shrimp will instead thrive for a time, but eventually the salinity will reach levels too high even for them9. Welcome to the official website of the Salton Sea Authority. The plan includes the construction of up to 30,000 acres of wetlands and bird habitat on the lake’s north and south ends, … While the agreement also mandated that the Imperial Irrigation District send fresh water to the Salton Sea —through 2017 —the Sea has been both shrinking and becoming more saline. The FFAP is a living document providing a blueprint to create a smaller but sustainable sea in a manner that is realistic, feasible, affordable, and achievable. Burgeoning cities express ever more interest in shifting water away from agriculture and towards urban uses. The lake occupies the lowest elevations of the trough, known as the Salton Sink, where the lake surface is 236.0 ft (71.9 m) below sea levelas of January 2018. The second part of the report analyzes the economic gains derived from project investments that create a more robust recreational element as part of a revitalized Salton Sea, read more here. Lucia Levers runs the numbers and discovers considerable differences between the options. The state of California has generated several, as of yet unfunded, proposals to fix the Sea. Dr Lucia Levers is an environmental scientist and economist at the Water Resources Center at the University of Minnesota. Managing California ’ s Water From. Located at the tail end of the Colorado River (Figure 1), the Salton Sea is one of the largest lakes in the United States – by far the largest in California. Main image: A heron in flight above foraging gulls on the Salton Sea. By next year (2021), the Sea will likely become too saline for fish populations. It is important to emphasize that we did not estimate the transaction costs associated with either option. The Salton Sea is one of few wetland habitats remaining in California. These goals will be implemented through the Salton Sea Management Program, which is committed to a transparent process with clearly defined goals and measurable objectives aligned with available fiscal and hydrological resources. Its intent, in the words of then executive director, Tom Kirk, was to “direct and coordinate actions related to improvement of water quality, stabilization of water … The principle is to construct a series of cascading pools along the southern edge. This approach builds upon decades of agriculture-to-urban water transfers in the region as well as the Quantification Settlement Agreement’s mitigation water transfer precedent (and is described in our previous work11). A Sea in trouble The Salton Sea, California’s largest lake, is in decline, mainly due to ever decreasing water flows. These values include no land costs. The 10-year Phase I Plan will guide early investments at the Salton Sea to protect public health and ecosystem wealth as the Sea recedes and meet goals set forth by the Governor’s Salton Sea Task Force and the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) executed on August 31, 2016, and amended on January 18, 2017 by the Department of Interior (DOI) and the California Natural Resource Agency (CNRA). This plan would take years to become viable, even if implemented today. The Salton Sea is home to more than 400 species of resident and migrating birds, including several endangered species, and is an important stop on the Pacific flyway, the north-south path for migrating birds in North America. What the response by the power players would be to either importing water from México or transferring agricultural water to the Sea is not certain. While threats posed by conditions at Salton Sea are significant, solutions are neither easy nor inexpensive, and are clearly beyond the capabilities of local entities along. USGS (2018). The Technology. Propane & Natural Gas Gas Stations. To avoid this potential outcome, water users on the Colorado negotiated the Drought Contingency Plan (DCP), which consists of voluntary usage cuts, allowing more water to remain in the reservoir—preventing the water level from dropping5. With a PhD and Master’s degree in Environmental Sciences from University of California, Riverside and a Bachelor’s degree in Human Biology from Stanford University, she incorporates natural resource, ecological, and environmental economics into interdisciplinary research projects. However, they were not expecting California’s largest urban water user, Los Angeles’s Metropolitan Water District, to bypass the Imperial Irrigation District’s objection by agreeing to provide the Imperial Irrigation District’s share of water if needed. Agriculture Economics Environment. Solutions? For less water, but still a substantial amount and closer to recent flows (1 million acre-feet), importing water from México would cost between $US3.3 and $US6.7 billion initially plus $US6 to $US21 million per year. Declining water levels expose previously submerged soils – playa – which are linked to increases in respiratory illnesses. Construct water treatment plants powered by existing "Renewable Energy" sources (Geothermal, Solar & Wind) to provide both clean sea water as well as desalinated water to the Salton Sea. Chief among these are importing water from the Sea of Cortés and transferring agricultural water to the Salton Sea. In the context of shrinking wetland habitats, the Salton Sea has become a critical habitat for migratory birds to stop and rest during their annual journeys. The Salton Sea is Highly Saline, Gradually Shrinking. The first part of the report captures the avoided costs and damages potentially achieved if the basic air quality and habitat mitigations are accomplished by the SSMP 10-Year Plan. 19STCP01376. letting the sea die will cause significant harm to both public health and wildlife in Southern California and beyond. Lucia Levers, University of Minnesota, US. Agricultural water transfers, on the other hand, do have a history in the region, as well as the benefit of requiring no new infrastructure—physically, it would be a simple as letting the water flow. 65959 Harrison St. … The views expressed in this article belong to the individual authors and do not represent the views of the Global Water Forum, the UNESCO Chair in Water Economics and Transboundary Water Governance, UNESCO, the Australian National University, or any of the institutions to which the authors are associated. Colorado River Basin Drought Contingency Plans. As California’s largest lake, it stretches across almost 35 miles in a remote, below sea-level valley in the southeastern corner of the state. Website. Available from: Lakhan N (2019). Endangered and Threatened Species. The Imperial Irrigation District. Estimates of the cost of these damages are $US11 to $US70 billion over the next 30 years10. The Salton Sea was created in 1905 when a nearby irrigation canal carrying Colorado River water breached and water overflowed into the lakebed for nearly two years. A valuable report on the economic potential of the Salton Sea focuses on the $6 Billion annual tourism economy in Coachella Valley. Salton Sea Area From Business: Shop your local Walmart for a wide selection of items in electronics, home furniture & appliances, toys, clothing, baby gear, video games, and more - helping you… 14. This number tops 80% is some arid systems, including the state of California, and the Colorado River2,3. The main cause for optimism is a 10-year, $380 million plan by California to address the Salton Sea crisis. Proposed Solutions. The GWF is an online resource publishing concise, open-access articles from leading researchers on water governance, policy, and science. Imperial Irrigation District v. The Metropolitan Water District of Southern California. The GWF also provides open access resources, courses, and tools to help to understand water challenges. Yet, reallocating water is no small feat, thanks to both perceived and actual benefits of various types of water uses, as well as frequently complicated systems of water rights4. For equivalent water flows, we estimated both the pipeline construction costs over the almost 300 kilometer distance between the two Seas (using values provided to the State of California) and the costs to generate equivalent flows from agricultural users, using the hydrologic-economic model developed in our earlier work11. The Salton Sea, California’s largest lake, is in decline, mainly due to ever decreasing water flows. While only importing water from the Sea of Cortés is transnational, both would require a formal agreement. The Salton Sea, California's largest lake, will die unless the state throws a staggering amount of resources at it in the next decade or so. Solutions for the Salton Sea. Schwabe KA, Albiac J, Connor J, Hassan R, Meza-Gonzalez L (2013). The main source of this water is the Imperial Valley of California, an agricultural powerhouse with the greatest stake of Colorado River water rights – more than the total entitlements of Arizona, Wyoming, Utah, Nevada, and New Mexico – which it uses to nourish half a million acres of crops. The FFAP is a living document providing a blueprint to create a smaller but sustainable sea in a manner that is realistic, feasible, affordable, and achievable. [cited 2020 Jul 10]. Another source of the aroma at Salton Sea is the hydrogen sulfide gas that brews in the mud at the bottom of the lake. Under the direction of Governor Gavin Newsom, California state agencies are advancing projects at the Salton Sea to improve air quality and provide critical environmental habitat for birds along the Pacific flyway. The mighty Colorado has continued to sustain agriculture, providing irrigation for over 5 million acres annually in the US5, while allowing only a fraction of its flow to reach its historical destination—the Sea of Cortés (Gulf of California). The Salton Sea Community Outreach, Education & Engagement Program (COEE) has been created to help children, students, school personnel, parents, local leaders and community-at-large learn about the Salton Sea, be aware of its current situation, understand the impacts it has on their health, be more participative in the decision making process and be aware of the short-term … Under the authority of the state legislature (AB 71), and in cooperation with the California Natural Resources Agency, the Salton Sea Authority has produced a Financial Feasibility Action Plan. Such agreements, along with their implementation, can take significant amounts of time, and can be quite contentious, often requiring the federal government (ie, the QSA) and/or the court system’s intervention. July 12, 2003. Now, with no more mitigation water, the decline has hastened. (Image by Barbara Barry, 2006). However, even just in the short term, fresh water can be used by habitat and playa exposure projects to mitigate damages. It is shrinking and becoming more saline with significant impacts on the region’s health, wealth and environment. Without this funding, Imperial Irrigation District refused to sign on to the Drought Contingency Plan. Wilson J (2019). As a terminal lake, a permanent solution will require more than just importing additional water. Hosted vast amounts of water use and trends in the region ’ s salton sea solutions,... About how to fix the Salton Sea, California ’ s largest lake, is in,... 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