Canal seepage could supply water for sea

May 07, 2002|By RUDY YNIGUEZ

Staff Writer

LIVERMORE — A temporary solution to help the ailing Salton Sea could be to supply it with seepage from the All-American and Coachella canals, according to the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratories.

Dana Christensen, Livermore principal deputy associate director for energy and environment, said the seepage water could be used until a more permanent solution can be found.

"Eventually you have to bring new water to the sea," he said. "One major source would be the Gulf of California."


The laboratory's study was conducted at the request of Rep. Duncan Hunter, R-Alpine.

Hunter spokesman Mike Harrison said the proposal could hold off any problems at the sea for a few years.

In a press release, Hunter states it's a simple point: "Take saltwater out and bring fresh water in."

The lining project will include 23 miles of the All-American Canal and the remaining 33.4 earthen miles of the Coachella Canal. The All-American lining project begins at Pilot Knob and extends to Drop 3. The Coachella project would begin at Siphon 7 near Slab City.

That seepage is already accounted for, however.

The lining projects will recover 67,700 acre-feet yearly from the All-American Canal and 25,700 acre-feet from the Coachella branch. The lining projects are estimated to cost about $200 million. Under the agricultural quantification settlement agreement, the recovered water will go to the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, with 16,000 acre-feet of it slated for the San Luis Rey River Indian Water Authority in northern San Diego County.

IID General Manager Jesse Silva said IID staff informed Livermore researchers of where the seepage will go when the canals are lined.

"We told those people from Lawrence Livermore that water is already committed," Silva said, adding discussions are ongoing with Mexican officials on what Mexico would like in exchange for the lost seepage, seepage considered owned by the IID. "We've already told them that it's our water."

Silva said the Bureau of Reclamation will not allow Colorado River water to go to the Salton Sea.

Tom Levy, Coachella's general manager/chief engineer, said the seepage from the All-American Canal is being used by Mexican farmers.

"I would think the Mexicans would go ballistic," he said, adding such a move could potentially damage others using Colorado River water but who don't hold rights to it. He said these so-called moms and pops stretch from Needles to the Mexican border and that the amount is equal to about 10,000 acre-feet.

Meanwhile, Livermore's Christensen said the seepage could be routed to the sea by allowing it to run through the irrigation system into a drain and to the sea, or a pipeline could be built. He said the economics of the issue were not investigated because the intent was to look at the water balancing needs of the region.

"The Salton Sea and the Imperial Valley are important assets that we really need to think how we're going to maintain them," he said.

The laboratory's six-page report on saving the sea states immediate steps should be taken to:

· control salinity in the sea by pumping water to evaporation ponds to mitigate the impacts of water-conservation efforts associated with the IID/San Diego County Water Authority water transfer, as is being tested.

· line the All-American and Coachella canals as quickly as possible to make the recovered water available for beneficial usage.

· conduct an evaluation of Salton Sea desalination using geothermal energy.

· develop mitigation measures for airborne dust as the sea's shoreline recedes due to the transfer.

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

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