A California state watchdog says the state government should move immediately to prevent an economic and environmental disaster caused by the decline of the Salton Sea.
The Little Hoover Commission, in a report titled “Averting Disaster: Action Now for the Salton Sea,” called on the state to fund restoration projects from the Proposition 1 water bond approved by voters last year.
The report warned that as the Salton Sea shrinks, toxic dust storms will increase, harming public health in the Imperial and Coachella valleys. The region’s economy will suffer and migratory birds will die or leave.
“The state has studied this subject long enough,” commission vice chair Loren Kaye said in remarks reported by the Los Angeles Times. “Now is the time for action.”
A similar call has come from officials in Imperial and Riverside counties, according to The Times, which reported that an Oakland-based environmental think tank issued a report last year predicting an environmental catastrophe unless swift and substantial action is taken.
The Little Hoover Commission announced it will hold a hearing in April to monitor state progress and request a briefing in August.
To be replenished, the Salton Sea, 35 miles long and an average 15 miles wide, is largely dependent on agricultural runoff. Its salt level exceeds that of the ocean, frequently killing fish.
As runoff decreases, due to more efficient irrigation and a 2003 water sales pact between the Imperial Irrigation District and the San Diego County Water Authority, the sea continues to shrink. As part of a 2003 pact, water from the Colorado River has been pumped directly into the Salton Sea, but that provision expires at the end of 2017.