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Voice: Lawrence Livermore Salton Sea/transfer proposal absurd

May 18, 2002

The Salton Sea plays a key roll as a stopping ground for hundreds of species of migratory birds. Rising salinity levels threaten both the long-term health of the sea and the birds that use it. But the Lawrence Livermore proposal ("Leaky canals may rescue Salton Sea," May 8) to temporarily dilute the Salton Sea — by pumping the water that leaks from the All-American and Coachella canals — is patently absurd.

This project would do little to enhance the Salton Sea while costing millions and taking years to build. Even worse, the very canals this project hopes to recover water from will soon be lined to protect leaks; all this investment and work would yield only a few years worth of water (the Coachella Canal could be completed by 2004 and the All-American Canal lining should be finished sometime around 2007).

An added complication: Mexico has a long-standing grievance about the impacts to Mexico of lining the All-American Canal. This proposal would just rub salt in an open wound, at a time of increasingly strained water relations on the border.

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Minimizing environmental impacts to the Salton Sea and protecting the sea's migratory bird habitat are both important goals. But trying to dilute one of the saltiest bodies of water in the world is not a workable solution. A better way to minimize impacts to the sea from the Imperial Valley water transfer would be to permit the transfer to proceed only with voluntary fallowing, for a five-year probationary period, while long-term habitat preservation and dust-abatement projects are developed and put into place.

MICHAEL J. COHEN

Senior research associate

Pacific Institute for Studies in

Development, Environment

and Security

Boulder, Colo.

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