“I love the beauty of it. I really do,” she said. “Even when it’s summer and 130 degrees, it’s beautiful.”
Many people moved to the area to watch the birds and a sea as far as the eye can see, the president of the West Shores Salton Sea Growth Association said. Since she’s been there, though, the sea levels have been dropping quite noticeably — from two feet in some areas to seven feet depending on the shoreline.
There’s good news and bad news when it comes to the Salton Sea.
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The bad news: the sea levels have continued to drop and if nothing is done, it could drop to a 15-foot sea not able to fill the full basin as it now does.
The good news: a new plan concept may soon go into place to help restore the ultra-saline lake that makes up the largest inland body of water in California.
The Salton Sea Authority, a joint group made up of representatives from Imperial County, Riverside County, Imperial Irrigation District, Coachella Valley Water District and the Torres Martinez Desert Cahuilla Indian Tribe, is set to vote Dec. 8 on moving forward with a conceptual plan to restore the Salton Sea.
The plan that has been in the works for a year-and-a-half consists of putting a dam-like structure running east and west along the sea, splitting it in half. The north half would stay as is, a sea, but the south half would become a basin, making it a site for renewable energy like solar, geothermal and algae.
A mile to mile-and-a-half wide river will surround the southern half of the basin.
Work is still being done to finalize the plan and prepare it for the Dec. 8 Salton Sea Authority meeting, where it is scheduled to be voted on, said Tim Krantz, director for the Salton Sea Database Program at the University of Redlands. Krantz has been working on the plan with the authority.
The group has also been working on getting funding to help finance the environmental impact report, feasibility study and engineering on the project, he said. The Riverside County Board of Supervisors submitted a $1.5 million grant application last month to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to help with the preliminary work, and some money may be available from the state.
If funding becomes available, work can start on the planning, and that process could be completed by the end of 2012, Krantz said. From there a final project could be approved by 2013 or 2014.
“It still takes some years to build this thing, but the clock is definitely ticking,” he said.
The flow of water is set to decrease by 2017 with the Quantification Settlement Agreement, the nation’s largest agriculture-to-urban water transfer, he said. The SSA has to get things going before then.
The conceptual plan maintains water where people and wildlife are, Krantz said. It transfers water out of the middle of the south basin, but keeps air quality concerns in mind by proposing to cover the area with renewable energy projects.
“This is the better plan,” he said. “There’s a lot of thinking that has gone into this, so that fundamentally the plan deals with a reduction of the amount of water going in to the sea.”
SSA board members were excited at last week’s meeting about the proposed plan. The plan and all of its components are a reminder that there are many opportunities out there to solve the problem, said Riverside County Supervisor John Benoit.