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and pesticides that have accumulated in Salton Sea mud.
A key component of the Pacifi c
Flyway, the Salton Sea is an important stopping point for more than 400 species of resident and migrating birds, hundreds of thousands of which may be at the Sea at any one time. Refi lled by fl ooding more than a century ago, the Salton Sea has survived, thanks primar- ily to the agricultural tail (surface) and tile water (subsurface) runoff that fl ows into it from the surrounding farms after irrigation. Water also fl ows to the Sea from Mexico.
Legislation passed in 2003 in con- nection with the QSA required the state to undertake restoration eff orts and in 2007 a $9 billion preferred alternative was proposed but never acted upon. IID, SDCWA and the Coachella Valley Water District (CVWD) pay for water transfer‐related environmental mitiga- tion measures, but the obligation does not extend to the Sea’s preexisting and long‐term environmental conditions or restoration costs.
“Consistent with obligations imposed under the California Environmental Quality Act, National Environmental Policy Act and the federal and state Endangered Species Acts, the QSA project analyzed and distinguished between project and non-project impacts on the Salton Sea and is mitigating for the impacts of the project,” said Halla Razak, SDCWA’s Colorado River program director. “However, SDCWA has always supported and continues to support seeking solutions for non-project impacts at the Sea.” T e quest to fi nd a way forward occurs in the wake of Sacramento Superior Court Judge Lloyd Connelly’s June 4 decision to uphold the adequacy of the environmental documentation used for the QSA, which had been challenged by Imperial County and its Air Pollution Control District regarding the adequacy of its environmental review process. After the ruling, offi cials were
quick to point out the need to focus on the future of the Salton Sea. “Nothing in this decision or any
future decision by a court is going to advance the cause of restoring the Salton Sea, so mediation, direct talks among all the parties, is the best path forward,” IID General Manager Kevin Kelley told the Imperial Valley Press. “… For IID’s part, we continue to believe that mediation is the best way forward irrespective of the parties’ own litigation plans.” As the reality of the QSA’s future impact draws near, a sense of urgency is growing regarding what to do about the Sea’s future. “It’s entirely apropos to frame the discussion for the future of the Sea in terms of whether there can really be salva- tion for this body of water,” Delfi no said. Central to the Sea’s future is the
involvement of Imperial County and IID, which have embarked on a course
Read the QSA Ruling
to fi nd a lasting resolution of Salton Sea issues, including reliable, long-term sources of funding. In May, the two agencies and the Imperial County Air Pollution Control District authorized a “term sheet” for Salton Sea restora- tion and funding that “recognizes the critical role of air quality mitigation and Salton Sea restoration in minimizing the impacts of the QSA on public health and the environment,” according to a press release. T e local sentiment “has changed dramatically since 2003,” when the idea of putting Colorado River water into the Sea was an anathema, said Tina Shields, Colorado River Resources manager with IID. At that time, IID relied on the state’s restoration promises when approving the QSA and its related water transfers, yet a decade later little has been done. IID’s use of Colorado River water as mitigation for the Salton Sea drew a rebuke from T e Bureau of Reclama- tion, which noted that nothing in the Colorado River Water Delivery Agree- ment allowed such advance mitigation transfers. T e district said it would fallow
Th e Salton Sea is an important stopping point for more than 400 species of resident and migrating birds
Summer 2013 • River Report • Colorado River Project • 3
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