Pilot project to save sea on track

November 03, 2001|By RUDY YNIGUEZ,Staff Writer

BOMBAY BEACH — Data on how well solar evaporation ponds reduce the salinity of Salton Sea water, and the seepage rates of those ponds, is being gathered at a pilot project near here.

The $500,000 pilot project has been in full swing since May 1 when water was introduced from the sea to the 10-pond project.

Carla Scheidlinger, project manager for the Bishop-based Agrarian Research and Management Co., said data will be collected for a year.

"We have seen what was predicted: that larger concentrations of salt evaporate slower," she said.

Water from the sea, which is about 25 percent saltier than the Pacific Ocean and has about 44,000 parts per million salt, is pumped 1,000 feet to the first pond.

There, the water begins to evaporate and is gravity-fed to successive ponds, each of which is six inches lower than the one before it. Each successive pond is smaller than the previous, as evaporation occurs faster in larger bodies of water.


"It only takes five ponds to make salt," Scheidlinger said. "Number six is salt."

Salt in pond 10 is 4 inches thick.

The content of ponds seven and eight are also salt, she said. Ponds number nine and 10 are extra.

Two ponds are dedicated to measuring seepage, and Scheidlinger said the seepage rate to-date is .003 inch per day. In this area — the Niland county park between Bombay Beach and Niland — the water table is about eight feet down.

A 17-inch column of water is sufficient to saturate the ground and slow its absorption.

"These are extremely good soils to construct ponds," Scheidlinger said of the Bombay Beach area soils. "You want water to just sit there and evaporate."

Added Salton Sea Authority Executive Director Tom Kirk: "It looks positive."

It is still unknown what will happen to the salt that is accumulated in the final pond, according to the project site manager, Jesús Montano.

Although the pilot project costs about $500,000, Scheidlinger said full-scale projects should cost about $3,000 to $4,000 an acre.

Staff Writer Rudy Yniguez can be reached at 337-3440.

Imperial Valley Press Online Articles