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By NICOLE ROTHFLEISCH, Program director TMDL

March 14, 2002

Setting a target for phosphate in the Salton Sea realistic?

A meeting of the technical advisory committee for the Salton Sea nutrient total maximum daily load was held Feb. 27 at the Imperial County Farm Bureau in El Centro.

Several issues were addressed, one being that law mandates a numeric target for the amount of phosphate discharged into the Salton Sea be set by October of this year. Being that the majority of this committee cannot agree on the biology of how the Salton Sea functions, setting this target within the next seven months seems a bit ludicrous and overwhelming.

Some believe there is so much phosphorous already in the Salton Sea that no matter how much the inputs of phosphorous are limited, it will never make a difference. Others believe the Salton Sea is unique in its abilities to precipitate out phosphorous, so if the inputs were limited, eutrophication in the sea would lessen, thus creating a healthier environment for fish and wildlife.

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How do we get rid of the phosphorous already residing in the sea? That is part of the Salton Sea Restoration Act so it doesn't affect this group. I'll let you know when I find out, though!

There are models being developed to demonstrate to the best knowledge of the researchers how limiting phosphorous at a range of levels would affect the Salton Sea. Hopefully these models will be something the committee can agree upon and hopefully they will be ready in time for the committee to use in their decision-making process for this numeric target. Both the fact that a numeric target is required for this phosphorous TMDL and the fact that we have to set it by October were disputed at this meeting. Teresa Newkirk of the Regional Water Quality Control Board said these issues would be extremely difficult to change.

At the next couple TAC meetings, people from all sides of the spectrum regarding phosphorous activity in the sea will be giving presentations.

The next meeting will be March 22 at the regional board offices in La Quinta. The April meeting again will be in the Imperial Valley again. Anyone interested in this issue or with any information or knowledge that may be pertinent to this committee is welcome to attend these meetings.

Also coming up is the Citizen Water Quality Monitoring workshop at 9 a.m. March 22 at the Farm Bureau. The regional board is providing the Farm Bureau with nine meters to check out to farmers to test their drain water. If you are interested as a grower in finding out the amount of sediment in your tail water to determine if you have a silt problem, the extent of the problem and if the best management practices you are implementing are working, you should attend this training to learn how to properly use these meters. The class is limited in size so please let the Farm Bureau know as soon as possible if you are interested in attending.

Please contact Nicole at the Farm Bureau at 352-3831 if you have any questions about these meetings or if you are interested in joining the voluntary TMDL compliance program.

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