California officials must stop squabbling and face the Salton Sea crisis with clear plans

Chuck Parker – Special to The Desert Sun

Forty million people living in Southern California are faced with a deadly combination of drought, warming temperatures, a drying Salton Sea and criminally negligent policies. Officials who have the power and the responsibility to protect our water supply refuse to admit that the Colorado River can no longer supply the amount of water that we have become accustomed to. They have chosen to retreat into their corners and squabble about who should make the necessary sacrifices to save Lake Mead and Lake Powell from reaching dead pool where no one will get any water from the river.

California officials, including Imperial Irrigation District (IID) are withholding their cooperation to save the Colorado River, by saying that cutbacks will hurt their efforts to control the dust that comes from the Salton Sea’s dry lakebed. They are demanding federal funding for these efforts as a condition for agreeing to cutbacks in water use. This is an attempt at blackmail based on a lie. The only plans that the Salton Sea Management Plan has to control dust are by furrowing the bone-dry lakebed and spreading hay bales. These plans will not work and are a token effort at best. It is the sale of water by IID to urban areas, beginning in 2003, which has caused the Salton Sea to dry up and created the dust storms that are making people sick.

Salton Sea
If you don’t believe me, just research dry Lake Owens. Stripped of all of its water by Los Angeles Metropolitan Water District 100 years ago, Lake Owens suffered from the worst air pollution in the country, decades of lawsuits and billions of dollars spent on dust control projects which left the lakebed looking like a vast parking lot. The Salton Sea is three times the size of Lake Owens and closer to large population centers. If we allow the Salton Sea Management Plan to follow the Lake Owens model, it will cost $9 billion plus maintenance, and create a huge public health disaster.
Officials, like our Congressman Dr. Raul Ruiz, who claim they are worried about the people who are getting sick, need to get behind the only plan that can completely eliminate the threat of toxic dust storms – importing ocean water. In this way, we can decouple the Salton Sea from the Colorado River and contribute to solving the water crisis that nature is presenting us. Once the sea is refilled, we could begin to desalinate the seawater to create a new supply of fresh water to relieve the drought. California and Arizona and the other Basin states and Mexico have to work together to protect our water supply.

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