from KCET

Why Don’t Californians Care About Saving The Salton Sea?


The Salton Sea is critical wildlife habitat | Photo: David Prasad/Flickr/Creative Commons License

It looks as though the state of California is starting to take the dying Salton Sea seriously. After years of relative inaction, both the Legislature and the Governor’s office are taking actual steps to halt what could become one of California’s biggest environmental and public health nightmares.

There’s a new Salton Sea Czar to oversee restoration of the Sea’s wetland habitats, a new resolve from the Brown administration to restore thousands of acres of wetlands around the shore, and a new, pressing deadline set by the Legislature to get those restoration projects lined up. After 15 years of warnings from environmental analysts, good government advocates, and regional leaders, California’s government may finally be ready to roll up its sleeves to do something about the Sea’s accelerating decline.

And that’s a good thing, because doing nothing means losing crucial wildlife habitat, consigning some of California’s least-affluent residents to chronic illnesses, and lowering Southern California property values by the billions. So why don’t most Californians care?

The Salton Sea, formed 110 years ago by an engineering accident that diverted the Colorado River’s flow into the Imperial and Coachella Valleys, has been fed in the intervening century by runoff from agricultural irrigation. In that time the Sea has become crucial habitat for migrating birds and other wildlife. That’s especially important given that our use of the Colorado River’s water has starved the formerly lush Colorado Delta, diverting the water that once supported lush wetlands and riparian forests. Now, the Salton Sea is often the only suitable stopover habitat in the region for birds migrating along the Pacific Flyway.

That’s about to change. In 2018 the Salton Sea will likely begin shrinking dramatically, the result of drastically reduced flows into the inland sea. The nearby IID has been deliberately sustaining the Sea by releasing so-called “mitigation water” into the Sea, but that “mitigation water” will dry up at the end of 2017, when IID reaches the end of its legal obligation to supply that mitigation water.

[ click to read full article at KCET ]