Latest: Another lease on life for the Salton Sea?

Now that water deliveries have ended, it’s a race for a solution.


Dead fish on the shore of the Salton Sea.

California’s Salton Sea, a land-locked agricultural drainage, was formed in 1905 and sustained by irrigation waters from the nearby Imperial Valley and Mexico. It has become important habitat for migratory birds, despite increased pollution and salinity. Recent droughts are causing more problems: As the shrinking water exposes a lakebed of toxic sediment, dust storms threaten public health. (“The People of the Sea,” HCN, 3/3/08)

At the end of 2017, a 15-year-old agreement that brought regular water deliveries to the Salton expired, exacerbating its issues. California agencies have failed to complete restoration projects, despite the state Legislature allotting $80.5 million for the sea in 2016. In mid-January, Riverside County Supervisor Manuel Perez proposed a $400 million taxpayer-funded solution that involves building a berm and forming a new freshwater lake from the Whitewater River. That would both tamp down toxic dust storms and provide taxes from new recreational opportunities. The commission will vote on the plan in the next few months.

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