Voice: Water transfer could severely damage Salton Sea, Valley farmland, human health

July 31, 2001

Save Our Sea II is a recently formed community group with the mission of supporting restoration efforts for the Salton Sea and opposing those activities that will harm the lake.

Our board of directors consists of members from as far north as Sacramento, as far west as San Diego County and as close as Salton City. All of us have a great appreciation for the natural and recreational resources of the sea; all of us have fished, hunted, water-skied, camped at, live at or simply enjoyed the wonderful vistas of this great lake.

Recently the Imperial Irrigation District joined with the Coachella Valley Water District and the San Diego County Water Authority to propose a bill that will remove up to 300,000 acre-feet annually of water from Imperial County. Two hundred thousand acre-feet will go to San Diego and 100,000 acre-feet will go to the Coachella Valley.

Reducing the sea's inflow to this degree will drop its level by 15 feet, exposing approximately 40,000 acres of lake bottom, causing the lake's salt concentration to increase to the degree that its fishery will collapse and those birds that depend upon the fish will be significantly harmed. Prevailing winds from the west-northwest will pick up the fine silty, saline sediments and deposit them on prime agricultural lands in the Imperial Valley, impacting agricultural productivity and human health.


The shoreline will recede by as much as 3.8 miles from the southern shore, 0.8 miles from the existing shore at Salton City, and by 0.4 miles from the docks at Desert Shores. Obviously, this will eliminate the sea's recreational value.

Currently more than 2 million people visit the sea each year, many passing through the Imperial Valley. They will no longer spend their money in our community if there is no Salton Sea.

This bill also will direct the Interior secretary to accept a draft habitat conservation plan as mitigation for the damage to the sea's natural systems — this is a plan that has not had public nor significant judicial review. Essentially, it makes an end run around the Endangered Species Act and provides legislation to protect the parties involved from lawsuits.

The bill is written in a manner to appear as if it is good for the sea, but it very well may spell the end of a lake that is so important to millions of birds and people.

While this bill has not been authored or introduced yet, we understand Sen. Feinstein and Congressman Hunter have agreed to introduce it before the end of this legislative period. We urge those concerned about maintaining the sea as the great natural and environmental resource that it is to contact their legislators and voice their apprehension.

Readers may find more information about this measure, including sample letters and legislative addresses, at our new Web site: WWW.SOSII.COM.

One hundred years ago a fellow by the name of John C. Van Dyke wandered through our area of the desert and wrote these words: "The landscape that is the simplest in form and the finest in color is by all odds the most beautiful. It is owing to just these features that this bowl of the desert is a thing of beauty … Yet here is more beauty destined to destruction."

How sad if his words a century ago become today's reality as the sea becomes "California's largest dead lake."

Please, send your letters now — the sea needs your support.


and SOS II's board of directors


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