SALTON SEA DEATH WARRANT -- Jim Matthews’ commentary 11jul
Salton Sea’s death warrant is being drafted by water agencies.
A death warrant is being drafted for the Salton Sea. Disguised as a bill to salvage the Salton Sea, legislation drafted by San Diego and Imperial county water agencies would authorize a huge water transfer of irrigation water to San Diego and the Coachella Valley from Imperial Valley. The result would be a death knell for perhaps the most incredible fishery in the nation and perhaps the loss of most if not all the hunting and birding opportunities on the Salton Sea. Steve Horvitz, park superintendent at the Salton Sea State Recreation Area, said that he received a pirated copy of a “discussion draft” of a proposed bill that was written by the Imperial Irrigation District (IID) and the San Diego County Water Authority (SDCWA). These two agencies are now shopping around for a legislator to carry the bill to make it a reality.
“When you first read it, it sounds like a very good thing for the sea,” said Horvitz, but he said the reality is far different. The crux of the bill would transfer 300,000 acre feet of Imperial Irrigation District (IID) water to two other agencies -- 200,000 acre feet to the San Diego County Water Authority and 100,000 acre feet to the Coachella Valley Water District. Cropland in Imperial County would either be left fallow or planted in crops that need less water to make up for the loss of water. The Salton Sea would be less fortunate. Currently, the sea receives around 1.3 million acre feet of water a year, 97 percent of that water comes from agricultural runoff. A substantial percentage of that 300,000 acre feet of transferred water would normally end up in the sea.
According to Dr. Tim Krantz, who is the program manager for the Salton Sea Database Program at the University of Redlands, the transfer of 300,000 acre feet of water a year from the Salton Sea basin would drop the level of the sea 15 feet and expose 62.5 square miles of lake bottom sediments. The sea itself would become so saline that if would not support any fish or wildlife. In plain terms, the nation’s most incredible and arguably most prolific fishery would be dead very quickly if this plan is implemented. Krantz also warns of the agricultural and human health impacts due to winds picking up the saline silt from the drying lake bed and depositing it on crops and people in Imperial and Riverside counties (much like Owens Dry Lake in southern Inyo County, which he says has the worst particulate air quality in the United States).
“Water transfers from the Salton Sea Basin, without guarantee of replacement water, spell death to the Salton Sea, degradation of agriculture, and loss of quality of life and human health to the rest of us,” said Krantz. The draft of the legislation would provide funding and water to create two wildlife “riparian” areas on the north and south end of the Salton Sea, which makes the legislation sound rosy, but those improvements would come at the expense of the Salton Sea fishery and all other wildlife uses on the sea. Ironically, the water needed to maintain the two riparian areas is far less than the 1 million-plus acre feet per year the Salton Sea receives now, and it would allow future water transfers as more agricultural lands are fallowed and more water transferred to fuel growth in Southern California’s urban areas.
The draft legislation would set the stage for the total destruction of the Salton Sea as we know it today and the loss of agriculture in Imperial County, which would also have a serious impact on wildlife populations. The draft would also limit the liability of the water transfer to a single, one-time payment of $30 million to mitigate for any losses. “I challenge anyone to believe we could create that much fish and wildlife habitat with $30 million. We are not that god-like,” said Krantz. IID is trotting this idea around legislator’s offices, and it recently passed the Salton Sea Authority, a joint powers agency, on a contentious 4-2 vote.
Before his death, Sonny Bono was championing the salvation of the entire sea for both economic, wildlife, and recreational reasons. Before him, the Congressional champion of the Salton Sea was Jerry Pettis. Both men were killed in tragic accidents before seeing their dreams of protecting and preserving the Salton Sea come to fruition. This proposal is the antithesis of what they were trying to accomplish in salvaging the Salton Sea for its tremendous fish and wildlife values.
I forwarded your post to Bill Gaines, CWA Gov Affairs Director. ###I am sure he will look into it. ###You might want to send a copy of this article to DU's Western Regional Office. ###Judging from the lack of help and/or support they have been at the Klamath don't hold your breath, but you never know. ###Thanks for keeping us posted.
It never ceases to amaze me at how some people just don't have a clue about how wonderful the Salton Sea area is.
I grew up hunting doves, ducks and geese there. ###It was the favorite spot for the men in my family to spend time together. ###My son caught his first fish at the Sea.
My hope has always been that the efforts of Bono and others would prevail. ###I hope to God, that in the end, all efforts to save the Sea are sucessful. ###I am hoping to someday take a grandson or grand daughter back there with me.
Gents there's but one way to circumvent this. Write call, cajole your state reps into action. The ramifications of this water transfer issue are monumental. I've a list of reps and others involved that would like your input.
Closer of the sea would be horrible look at the quality fish we will be missing out on. Pictures of a recent fish trip.
"Salton Sea Report"
My friend Billy and I fished friday afternoon and saturday until 2:00 pm.
Today we had over 20 fish to 18 lbs with the average going from 10 to 14 lbs, all fish were caught on "Fishtraps" fishing in 10 to 12 feet of water near Black Rock, all fish were released!
For everyone of us that hunt, fish and camp at the Sea, these water issue plans ARE going to murder her. Make no doubt, her shores will recide a mile or more from where they now rest. For those of you who share a love for the Sea, as well as those who recognize her importance in the Pacific flyway ACT. There will be a group entitled SOSII (Save Our Sea)up and running soon. Spearheaded by Steve Horvitz, CA. State Park Supervisor for the area, along with outdoor writers, scientists, outdoorsman and eco-fans. This is a grassroots bundle with one thrust, to formulate a response and highlight a concensus not geared toward financial gain. I've the snail mail address along with e-mail addresses for those interested. Excuse me for using this forum for a call to arms.
I brought copies of the Mathews article to the CWA board meeting on Friday. ###The board is now well aware of the situation at the Salton Sea, but due to everything going on in the Klamath Basin and NoCal involving water there isn't much time or budget to spend down at the Sea. ###I would recommend that the leaders of the user group contact Bill Gaines, CWA Director of Gov. Affairs. ###I am sure he would be happy to do what he can from up here. ###He is very experienced in water policy and issues and may be a great resource. ###Good Luck.