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House OKs millions for Salton Sea, New River cleanup, All-American reservoirs

June 29, 2001|By KELLY GRANT, Staff Writer

The House of Representatives on Thursday passed a spending bill that would provide millions of dollars for cleanup efforts at the New River and Salton Sea and the design of reservoirs along the All-American Canal.

The measure will be referred to the U.S. Senate for consideration.

Funding for the New River wetlands project totaled $1.5 million and will be used to continue a series of ponds adjacent to the New River that will serve as a natural filtration system.

The project is administered by Desert Wildlife Unlimited. Leon Lesicka, head of DWU, said the money will fund the program from this October until October 2002.

"This is a good step," Lesicka said. "It's a little less than asked for but nevertheless it's a good step."

There are two ponds already constructed along the New River, one west of Imperial and the other west of Brawley.

The goal of the project is to clean the New River and develop wetlands along it and the Alamo River, creating recreation areas for birdwatching, hiking, fishing, hunting and other activities, Lesicka said.

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The Salton Sea research project was provided $2 million for efforts to reduce the sea's salinity level, currently 25 percent higher than the Pacific Ocean. Because the sea has no outlet, its salt content continually increases when salt and contaminants from in-flowing water sources remain after the water evaporates.

Total Salton Sea restoration could require hundreds of millions of dollars.

The Salton Sea research project addresses the problem with solar evaporation ponds and an enhanced evaporation system that blows sea water in a fine mist to leave behind salt.

A 10-pond solar evaporation test project has been operating since May.

The measure also provides $1 million for the design of water-management and conservation reservoirs adjacent to the All-American Canal.

The reservoirs will allow the Imperial Irrigation District to capture excess water in high-supply times, which can be used for water conservation, energy generation and cooperative management opportunities with Mexico, according to a press release from Congressman Duncan Hunter's office, the lawmaker requesting the cleanup funds.

Sue Giller, IID media and communications supervisor, said the money will be given to the U.S. Bureau of Land Management to fund design work and environmental studies.

Two reservoirs are planned, although no specific locations have been selected, Giller said.

When the All-American is lined with concrete the hydraulics will change, creating a need for reservoirs, Giller said.

Staff Writer Kelly Grant can be reached at 337-3441.

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