Commentary (from AgAlert): Proposition 3 water bond represents important step

Below is a snippet from an article published on the California Farm Bureau’s AgAlert by Justin Fredrickson, environmental policy analyst for the California Farm Bureau Federation.

“Indeed, it’s no accident that numerous, solution-oriented conservation groups strongly endorse this bond, along with representatives of agriculture and business, flood-control districts and water districts throughout the state. Conservation groups supporting Proposition 3 include the Nature Conservancy, National Audubon Society, National Wildlife Federation, Planning and Conservation League, Sustainable Conservation, California Trout, Natural Heritage Institute, Ducks Unlimited, California Waterfowl Association and Save the Bay.

“That’s because Proposition 3 includes funding for conservancies, recycling, water conservation, stormwater capture, fish, waterfowl, Salton Sea restoration and forest management.”

You can read the entire article here.

Imperial Valley Press: IID pushing forward on plan to place additional water in Lake Mead

The Imperial Irrigation District is working with the Bureau of Reclamation and the other Colorado River Basin States to create a Drought Contingency Plan (DCP). Below is a clip from the Imperial Valley Press regarding IID and the DCP:

IID representatives, along with members of the various Colorado River water contractors, on Sept. 17 and 18 participated in a basin states meeting in Las Vegas hosted by the bureau to explore the creation of a basin-wide DCP.

Brenda Burman is the Bureau of Reclamation's 23rd Commissioner
Commissioner Brenda Burman

“I attended the Colorado River meeting in Las Vegas to discuss the drought contingency plan process with the two basins and seven states that are in this process and identify critical next steps,” IID Board President James C. Hanks, Division 3, said during the regular board meeting Tuesday afternoon. “These meetings were led by Reclamation Commissioner Brenda W. Burman, and I can report that while there is still no DCP, there is considerable interest on the part of the Bureau of Reclamation … in completing one before the year’s end.”

IID is exploring the creation of a DCP in concert with the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California that would expand how much water it can store behind Hoover Dam in Lake Mead. The DCP would only be approved by IID if it were to ensure that such water can be withdrawn on demand, that the authority to unilaterally preside over local agricultural water conservation methods are solely the purview of IID and that such an agreement would not put the Salton Sea at further risk of drying up due to lower water inflow.

The article can be read here.

Who Controls Distribution of the Imperial Valley’s Water?

While looking around the Internet we came across this great article on The Desert Review by Brian McNeece. Please read it as it is a very important take on the water in the Imperial Valley.

Some locals have asked, “What does it matter who controls the water?”  It matters a lot.  Farmers rightly claim that they contribute the majority of value to

Farmland in the Imperial Valley

the local economy. They also claim that if they were to control the water, the Imperial Valley would be in good hands….

If you are one of about 500 farmers here, being in control of the water sounds mighty sweet, but if you’re among the other 179,500 residents of Imperial County, you might want those decisions to be made by elected representatives sworn to uphold the public good.

Link to the article at The Desert Review is here.

 

Colorado River reservoirs expected to be less than half full by Sept. 30

The Colorado River Basin has been in drought for 18 years; how is this going to affect the water that the Imperial Valley receives in years to come?

Colorado River reservoirs expected to be less than half full by Sept. 30

“We’re in uncharted territory for the system,” said Jeff Kightlinger, general manager of the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, the water wholesaler for greater Los Angeles, which relies on the Colorado River for a portion of its supplies.

“Everything is new, and it’s all bleak. None of it is positive.”

Click here for the complete story.

DesertReport.org: Can Importing Water From The Gulf Of California Save The Salton Sea?

The following excerpt is from an article was posted on March 11, 2018 at DesertReport.org.

Michael Cohen, Senior Research Associate, Pacific Institute:

A lot of people are saying you need to import water from Mexico to save the Salton Sea, but there are several challenges. It would require permission of the Republic of Mexico, which is currently not very fond of our President. Even at the best of times, when there is clear mutual interest such as delivering water to the Colorado Delta, it’s taken five full years to reach agreement between the nations.

There are ecological challenges. Theoretically you could put a pipeline or channel below the biosphere core area and avoid harming a pretty productive estuary. There’s also the Vaquita porpoise, the most endangered marine mammal in the world. You wouldn’t want to bring them into whatever pipeline or canal you’re developing.

Photo above: Bombay Beach on the east shore of the Salton Sea – with the water already far off in the distance. Photo by Craig Deutsche.

The second challenge is cost: the California Department of Water Resources estimated the cost at $30-40 billion dollars. That’s because one of the key challenges with any kind of import plan is that, along with that water you’re importing a lot of salt – and you need to get rid of it.

If you simply propose to bring in water and not export salt, what you do is address the dust control problem, but not the habitat challenge. It’s fairly easy to bring in a lot of water without having to worry about pumping that water
back out. So if your intent is simply to have a brine lake where Salton Sea is, you can do that.

So there are the issues of cost, salt balance, and the Mexican negotiation – all of which by my estimate would take 20 to 30 years before you get the solution you’re looking for. The Salton Sea will be completely different than it is now.

 

Does the idea of importing water to the Salton Sea distract from what can be done now?

Right, so that’s the major problem. Even if you could snap your fingers and all of a sudden there was a restored Salton Sea and you could bring in all this water, in we’d have a real conversation about whether it is worth all this additional money to have a whole Salton Sea? But when people continue to point to this solution, it distracts from what we really need to be doing right now, which is investing money in public health and protecting the environment and rebuilding habitat at least along the shoreline. And then hopefully get some kind of deeper North Lake where you can get a real fishery habitat.

Those things seem to be achievable in what should be the relatively short term, versus under the very best circumstances seeing some resolution with the import plan.

The other potential challenge is people say “oh we’re going to desalinate the water with all this geothermal resource at the Salton Sea and put some of that water back into the Sea.” But Geothermal is not cheap, and building desalinization plants is capital intensive. But the bigger problem is that once you get higher quality there, someone will buy it.

The snow pack in California is terrible, and the current forecast for the Colorado River Basin is one of the worst in the past 20 years. So there’s just not a lot of good quality water in California or the Colorado Basin. So If you produce good quality water, someone’s going to want it – which means that it’s not going to go into the Salton Sea anyway. So if you desalinate water, what you’re really saying is you’re going to sell that water to somebody else and the Salton Sea is going to be a brine sink.

 

Do you have any other thoughts?

There is so much opportunity out there. I wish they [the state] could get their act together.

The complete article is available here: http://www.desertreport.org/?p=2060

Guests see Salton Sea in a new way at annual Bird Festival

From the Imperial Valley Press Online:

Guests see Salton Sea in a new way at annual Bird Festival

Posted: Monday, January 15, 2018 12:30 am

MECCA — Out of the 927 species of birds currently in the United States, 432 species make use of the Salton Sea either as their home or as a place to stay during the winter months.

As the Sea continues to shrink and contains record-high salinity levels, the more than 400 species inhabiting it are at risk of being lost from the area. In an effort to build more exposure toward the issue, the Sea and Desert Interpretive Association created the annual Salton Sea Bird Festival.

The fifth annual festival held Saturday and Sunday at the Salton Sea Recreation Area drew in about 200 people who were able to view the Sea in the same fashion as avid bird-watchers do through a series of guided tours, bird walks, lectures and nature walks.

“We want to inform people and to excite people about the bird life that’s here,” explained SDIA’s Debi Elton. “That’s one of the biggest things the Salton Sea has, and that’s why they want to try to preserve it and keep the wetlands to keep the birds coming through.”

SDIA was able bring the festival back this year, as it was canceled last year due to a lack of SDIA staff because of state park cutbacks.

Sunday’s festival events included a trip to the Coachella Valley Wild Bird Center and presentations from Chris Schoneman, project manager of the Sonny Bono Salton Sea National Wildlife Refuge, regarding environmental changes at the Sea and Bruce Wilcox, assistant secretary for the Salton Sea policy in the California Department Natural Resources Agency, on the Sea’s 10-year plan.

The festival on Saturday featured Sony Bono SS National Wildlife Refuge Biologist Matthew Salkiewicz as a tour guide for an Ironwood trail walk and two shoreline bird walks. Those who attended were also given the opportunity to participate in a north-to-south birding tour, in which eight caravans guided guests from the Recreational Area to Sonny Bono Unit One to see the best bird locations along the way.

“I think this is a good opportunity to bring people into an area they’re completely unfamiliar with,” stated Salkiewicz, who is in his fifth year as a tour guide for the festival. “Typically when we get people to come down to these events they’re brand new to the area and seeing the Salton Sea for the first time.”

On Saturday afternoon, Salkiewicz guided about 11 guests for an hour-long walk down the Sea’s shoreline, stopping at popular bird locations and giving facts about the Sea along the way.

Among the group was Joey Ryan, a bird enthusiast for more than 50 years, who travels from her home in Philadelphia, Pa., to Palm Springs during the winter and makes it a point to attend the festival whenever she can.

“It’s a good event to come to because the folks that lead the birding tour for the festival are really experts in what they do, and they take the time to explain the birds and what they see and also the history of the area,” expressed the Philadelphia resident, whose favorite part in her third year at the festival was seeing a Sage Thrasher bird.

Salkiewicz hopes that guests not only enjoyed the bird-watching, but also took away the importance of saving the Sea.

“If it wasn’t for the Sea, these birds would have no place to go and this is the last stand for a lot of these birds in the Pacific Flyway,” said the tour guide. “All the coastal areas they inhabited are gone, destroyed. If we lose this, we’re going to lose a lot of our birds.”