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.”

Dead Seas

The following article appeared on E&E News. We are posting this article because it highlights the work of an incredible public health champion, Aide Munguia-Fullton, a nurse that runs the Imperial Valley Child Asthma Program. A local leader in environmental justice.

The Imperial Valley Child Asthma Program (IVCAP) is a community-based grant-funded program, the only program in the Imperial County designed to improve the quality of life of children ages 0-18, with special emphasis on low-income Latino families with children ages 0-5 who suffer from asthma. Tthe program seeks to prevent or reduce hospitalizations by enhancing parental asthma management skills through care coordination, case management education, home visitations, community education, and encouraging the adoption of standards of care for asthma among medical professionals What is special about our program is the unique partnerships that allows IVCAP to provide essential asthma management coordination services to both local hospital emergency rooms, pediatric departments, and the coordination of referral services to local pediatricians and clinics. Another important aspect of the program is the asthma staff participations in different coalitions created to advocate clean air policies and a healthier environment for asthmatics.
Aide Munguia-Fullton of the Imperial Valley Child Asthma Program

DEAD SEAS
Shrinking lake spawns public health nightmare

IMPERIAL COUNTY, Calif. — A dust bowl is coming, and people here are scared.

Aide Munguia-Fulton, a nurse who runs a community program for children with asthma, has been seeing referrals for assistance soar in the last three years as the Salton Sea has begun receding due to water management schemes and a persistent drought.

Receiving 400 referrals last year alone, Munguia-Fulton has funding to enroll no more than 200 kids a year. She’s managed to include more children, but she knows the lake is expected to shrivel more quickly starting at the end of 2017, exposing thousands of acres of a dusty, toxin-laced salt bed and exacerbating already high asthma rates.

Munguia-Fulton has worked here for more than two decades, and, three years ago, she too was diagnosed with asthma. Just as she tells her patients, she hides indoors from unrelenting dust on windy days. She carries a dust mask with her at all times.

She doesn’t know how the cash-strapped area will cope if air quality continues to deteriorate.

“I am so concerned for our hospitals that are going to suffer the heavy loads,” Munguia-Fulton said. “We have to be prepared. And I know we are not.”

The recession of California’s largest lake (350 square miles) is exposing a lake bed saturated with arsenic, lead, cadmium and other toxins. By the end of 2017, the shrinking will accelerate under terms of state-backed water transfer from this agricultural area to coastal San Diego (Greenwire, June 13).

More than 100 square miles of toxic salt flat could be uncovered in the coming decades. The Pacific Institute, a nonpartisan think tank, estimates that by 2045, the lake bed could be putting 100 tons of dust per day into the air.

That dust — called coarse particulate matter by regulators — is by nature dangerous because it can penetrate deeply into the lungs. It will make breathing even more difficult in an area whose air quality already ranks among the nation’s worst because of dust from farms and desert.

That pollution is broadcast from this remote corner of southeast California by frequent wind storms whose gusts hit 80 mph.

It’s a “really salty dust, it burns your eyes,” said Bruce Wilcox of the California Natural Resources Agency. “It only lasts for 15 to 20 minutes. But it’s the longest 15 to 20 minutes of your life if you are standing in it.”

Winds carry that dust toward some 650,000 people — a population that’s expected to double in the next 30 years.

Hit hardest by prevailing north-to-south winds is the Imperial County near the Mexico border. With the state’s highest childhood asthma rates, the county is more than 80 percent Hispanic, suffers a 20 percent unemployment rate and nearly more than 1 in 3 of its children live in poverty.

North of the Salton Sea, asthma rates are also high as shifting winds carry dust there.

And new data suggest asthma rates are rising closer to the lake, local health officials say.

You can read the complete article here.

KPBS: The Shrinking Salton Sea Endangers Region’s Health

The Shrinking Salton Sea Endangers Region’s Health

Monday, January 15, 2018

West Shores High School principal Richard Pimentel slips on a cowboy hat before stepping outside. It is a nod to fashion as a response to the region’s harsh desert sun.

The school sits about halfway up the western side of California’s Salton Sea. Modern buildings, concrete patios and walkways and an artificial turf sports field stand in stark contrast to the desert community that surrounds the campus.

Tumbleweed and sand are common fixtures of the town’s yards.

“We are about 30 miles from anywhere,” Pimentel said.

Pimentel’s manner is relaxed and comfortable as he walks among his students during lunchtime.

A smile, a question or a joke come easily.

The Salton Sea at Red Hill Marina

“They’re my kids,” Pimentel said. “You have to take responsibility and ownership of that. These folks have entrusted me with the welfare of their kids. It’s a big deal.”

RELATED: A Look At The Incredible Shrinking Salton Sea

Dust swirls in windy desert valley

Pimentel can guide and encourage, but he cannot shield his students from the dust that swirls in this windy desert valley.

“Any time there’s any kind of a wind, you see the dust clouds,” Pimentel said.

The dust in those clouds contribute to the Imperial Valley’s highest in the state asthma rates, and most people who live here expect things to get worse. That is because the Salton Sea is shrinking, exposing thousands of acres of possibly toxic lakebed to the hot sun and the region’s powerful winds.

Inside the nurse’s office at West Shores High, Pimentel unlocks a metal cabinet. It contains plastic bags from more than 40 of his students who need to bring prescription medicine to school so they can cope with their asthma.

He holds one up and looks through the translucent material.

You can continue reading this great article here.

Don’t Get Left in the Dark When Going Solar (from Patch.com)

Over 32,000 homeowners in the Southern California Edison territory have gone solar this year, and the vast majority are likely unaware of the financial impact they will experience due to Southern California Edison’s newly altered solar rates. A typical homeowner may lose thousands of dollars in savings over the lifetime of their solar power system if it is not designed to factor in the new solar rules and rates.

Under former solar rules, it was simple for solar companies to design a solar power system that resulted in a $0 bill for electric energy. A solar company looked at how much energy a household used on an annual basis and designed a solar power system to produce that same amount of energy per year, regardless of when the system produced energy or when the home consumed energy.

Since July 1, 2017, solar customers in the Southern California Edison (Edison) territory have been on new solar rules, which have forced all solar customers onto “time-of-use rates.” An in-depth analysis is now needed to design a solar power system because with time-of-use rates, Edison charges more for the electricity depending on when a home uses energy in a day, not just how much the home uses in a given month.

Read the complete article here.

Assemblymember Eduardo Garcia Celebrates 2017 Legislative Victories and Outlines Priorities for New Year

This is an excerpt from a press release posted on Imperial Valley News:

CA Parks/Salton Sea

With the success of SB 5 – Park Bond voters across our state will soon have

Assemblymember Eduardo Garcia and Senator Ben Hueso

the opportunity to invest $4 billion for parks, recreation and safe drinking water with 20% of the bonds funding designated for disadvantaged

communities. This measure additionally allocates $200 million dollars to fund the 10-Year Salton Sea Management Plan, $10 million for the New River parkway and specifically prioritizes funding for Imperial County State Fairground improvements.

“By bringing human health impacts to the forefront of these conversations we have been able to garner greater state support and resources toward Salton Sea mitigation.”

Climate Change/Air Quality

“The passage of AB 398 – Cap-and-Trade Reform  and AB 617 – Air Quality established a comprehensive, statewide program that will allow us to achieve our ambitious climate goals, while ensuring the market stability necessary to retain industry jobs and address vital public health and air quality issues. Importantly, these measures will help further climate equity in disadvantaged areas and directs the Air Resources Board to help region air districts to identify communities in need of air quality monitors; often low income communities of color that historically have been disproportionately impacted by pollution. The community plans developed will be essential to mitigating problems and improving air quality for our families”

“We will continue to fight for our region to receive its fair share of climate investment funds.”

You can read the entire list of accomplishments by clicking here.

#Coachella Rising: Aging Farmworkers, Unions, Organic Mangos & the #SaltonSea

A great article from New America Media on California’s #SaltonSea:

Forty one years ago I was a young organizer for the United Farm Workers in the Coachella Valley, helping agricultural laborers win union elections and negotiate contracts. Suspicion of growers was a survival attitude. I was beaten by the son of one rancher in a vineyard, while trying to talk to people sitting in the vines on their lunch hour. When I met with workers in another field, my old Plymouth Valiant convertible was filled with fertilizer and its tires slashed.

 By those standards, I could see that HMS Ranch Management, which manages day-to-day operations for ranch owners, was different. I’m sure Ole Fogh-Andersen, who ran the company, would have preferred that the laborers he employed voted against the union. But when they did vote for it in 1976, he sat down and negotiated. It took quite a while — he was no pushover. But Ruth Shy, a former nun who taught the virtues of patience and persistence, got most of our union committee’s demands into the agreement. I did the field job of keeping everyone on board.
The complete article can be found by clicking here.

From the Salt Lake (City) Tribune: Commentary: Should you be forced to subsidize your neighbor’s #solar panels?

A great commentary on solar and how people that cannot afford it are actually subsidizing those that can…

Should Utahns who don’t want or cannot afford to install solar panels on their home be forced to pay for those who can? That’s the crux of the current net-metering debate in our state.

Net metering allows solar customers to sell excess electricity generated by their rooftop panels back to the utility companies.

A study last year found that solar customers, who rely on and use the electrical grid as much as traditional customers, are not paying their fair share for its use.

What’s more, under the current net-metering arrangement, Rocky Mountain Power, Utah’s electric utility company, pays three times more for energy generated by residential solar panels than it pays for energy generated by commercial solar farms.

As a result, solar customers essentially receive a $400 subsidy every year, which amounts to a $6.5 million cost to the utility company. If things don’t change, as more people install solar panels on their homes, that number could skyrocket to $78 million.

This is bad news for non-solar customers who will foot the bill when Rocky Mountain Power increases prices to cover these losses.

The situation is particularly urgent for low-income households that spend an ever-growing portion of their income on electricity and suffer greatly from higher energy prices. For the 198,000 Utah households that earn less than $30,000, 18 percent of their monthly budget is already swallowed up by energy costs.

Rooftop solar on a home.

What’s worse, a rate increase doesn’t just mean higher utility bills, it also means higher costs for everything else. Local grocery stores forced to pay higher energy rates to light their stores and refrigerate food will likely pass on that cost in the form of higher prices. For families struggling to make ends meet from one month to the next, increased electricity costs could be catastrophic.

And when you consider that more than 60 percent of the state’s 22,000 rooftop solar owners earn more than $100,000 per year, it’s easy to see that the current rate structure is a patently unfair transfer of wealth from less fortunate consumers who can’t afford solar panels to the more well-off Utahns who can.

To level the playing field for all Utahns and protect the more vulnerable in our community, Rocky Mountain Power submitted a request to the Utah Public Service Commission to create a fairer rate structure.

Of course, solar companies that care only about protecting their customers’ lucrative subsidy are attempting to block the correction.

They argue that many customers who choose solar to save money on their electric bills will be disinclined to do so if the new prices requested by Rocky Mountain Power go into effect. And they disingenuously claim that fixing the rate disparity is meant to stifle competition and will kill jobs and harm a “thriving” industry.

But they fail to recognize that cheaper energy prices make Utah a desirable locale for businesses. Utah enjoys some of the lowest energy prices in the country, close to 20 percent lower than the national average. A potential rate increase to cover the ballooning costs of net metering could jeopardize our state’s ability to attract and retain businesses and jobs across all industries.

Moreover, if the solar industry is propped up with forced subsidies from people who cannot afford the product or simply don’t want it, is it really thriving?

The Utah Public Service Commission must eliminate the unfair subsidy for rooftop solar users. For their part, instead of relying on an artificial boost, rooftop solar companies should strive to make products and services that are truly affordable.

Evelyn Everton is the Utah state director of Americans for Prosperity.

Original article can be found here: http://www.sltrib.com/opinion/commentary/2017/08/27/commentary-should-you-be-forced-to-subsidize-your-neighbors-solar-panels/