What’s to be done with the Salton Sea? The California Natural Resources Agency (CNRA) conducted a community workshop last Thursday at the Indio Performing Arts Center to unveil its 10 year plan for addressing urgent environmental and public health concerns surrounding the rapidly evaporating lake.
Councilmember Glenn Miller welcomed attendees before turning over the floor to Phil Rosentrater, Executive Director of government organization the Salton Sea Authority. Mr. Rosentrater stressed the importance of the plan, pointing out that there had never before been a consensus between local and state governments and the communities surrounding the Salton Sea on how to tackle this critical issue. He also revealed that the state of California has provided $80.5 million of the plan’s $400 million price tag, admitting, “we have a long way to go, but it’s a good start.” Assemblymember Eduardo Garcia was also in attendance, encouraging voters to support his bill in November that would allocate an additional $500 million in bonds to the issue.
Presented by Bruce Wilcox, CNRA’s assistant secretary for Salton Sea Policy, the plan outlines how the agency will use the $400 million on projects to address rising salinity levels, restore critical habitat used by fish and migratory birds, and mitigate the spread of toxic dust, generated when lakebed, or playa, is exposed by evaporation. If all goes according to plan, the agency will begin work by the end of 2017, just in the nick of time: the Imperial Irrigation District’s 15 years of pumping water into the Salton Sea will end within the year.
Not everyone was pleased with the 10 year plan. At the end of the presentation, several community members voiced concern over its efficacy. One described the plan as “placing a bandaid over an arterial bleed” while another suggested the $400 million would be better spent funding the supply of additional mitigation water in order buy more time. “We could buy time,” responded Wilcox, “I’d rather buy habitat.”