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Voice: Inland seaway may be answer for Salton Sea

May 13, 2002

Heal the Harbor, Inc. an "of the water, for the water and by the water" environmental group, is founded for not only the betterment of harbor water quality, but also for the benefit of boat owners and users

Consequently, Heal the Harbor is interested in promoting boating and a maritime boating culture on the West Coast like is present on the East Coast. Unfortunately, there are far fewer boating destinations and the distances to them are greatly increased in Southern California. While it is possible to take a small boat by trailer to San Felipe, Baja California and put in for a few days sailing and fishing in the Sea of Cortez, it is not practical to trailer your sailboat or large boat, especially on the roads south of the border.

The Salton Sea's need for water replenishment can be the driving force for the realization of a long dream of Southern California boaters — the Southwest Passage — a navigation from the Pacific Ocean to the Gulf of California without having to sail all the way around Cabo San Lucas and back up.

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It would be a very simple and straight-forward engineering project to dig part of the canal at the sea level elevation marker from near the southwest corner of the Salton Sea — just west of Westmorland all the way south to Mexicali and then south another 80 miles staying west of the Colorado River channel to the Gulf of California in the northern part of Sea of Cortez.

With a minimum of four or five locks, cruise ships would have a new route — San Diego or Los Angeles down around Cabo San Lucas and back up the sheltered and warm Sea of Cortez to Salton City on the Salton Sea.

Passengers could then take in a few rounds of golf at Palm Springs and make their flights out or fly into Palm Springs to take the cruise ship down the Sea of Cortez to Cabo San Lucas and back up to Los Angeles or San Diego.

This simple engineering project would not only bring in water to stabilize the shoreline of the Salton Sea but it would make it much easier and much safer for Southern California small craft owner to trailer their fishing boats over good freeway roads from Los Angeles or San Diego to the Salton Sea and then use the lock system to get south to the Gulf of California and the Sea of Cortez.

The ultimate answer, however, to both water quality of the Salton Sea and boat travel from Southern California to the Sea of Cortez is to make a true California seawater loop.

The San Luis Rey River (classified as a stream) could be dredged out to allow naval vessels to dock at Camp Pendleton and smaller craft to sail inland almost 20 miles before a series of locks would take seawater and small craft up to Lake Henshaw (2,683 foot elevation) or a much reduced in elevation (500 feet) and longer and larger Lake Henshaw and then take the old Butterfield Stage route east down Dry Canyon and across the Borrego Sink and down the Borrego Wash into the Salton Sea. This is a tentative plausible route and there may be a better one.

This would be the most probable route for a pipeline to bring in seawater even if the systems of locks in not built.

TIM BECK

Secretary of the board and

research director

Heal the Harbor, Inc.

Manhattan Beach

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