state should recognize that these local projects typically can be built much faster, at lower cost, than the state regulatory agencies can build them; state funds should be directed to expedite and expand these local eff orts.” Even with the SCHP, dramatic
changes are in store for the Sea in the near future. “It is projected that sometime after 2017, when the mitigation water is terminated, evaporation will far outpace infl ow, triggering an accelerated pace of salinity increase; after that fi sh will have a problem surviving,” Nelson said. “T ere will be impacts associated with the larger Sea, but we will be able to operate the ponds for the benefi t of the species that are our targets.”
IID has many mitigation require- ments outlined in its permits with state agencies. T e primary one associated with the Salton Sea for the fi rst 15 years is a mitigation delivery requirement so there is no net impact on the Sea during that period of time, Shields said. T e State Water Resources Control
Board (State Water Board) did not require mitigation water after 2018 because extending the time period for mitigation “will not solve the basic problem of in-
creasing salinity in the long term,” Razak said. Mitigation eff orts such as those to conserve and restore riparian habitat along the Salton Sea “are consistent with the state’s existing eff orts to explore alternative methods of restoring habitat at the Salton Sea on land owned by IID,” she said. IID, CVWD and SDCWA pay $133 million (in 2003 dollars) to pay for habitat and air quality mitigation activities; the funds are administered by a joint powers authority that includes the Department of Fish and Wildlife because of the state’s fi nancial responsibility for mitigation activities once the agency monies are exhausted. “SDCWA, CVWD and IID have funded mitigation and the JPA is implementing QSA mitigation projects as required,” Razak said. “T is funding arrangement was approved by the courts in the fi rst phase of the QSA litigation.”
Clearing the Air
Air quality impacts associated with the Salton Sea come in the form of dust and particulate matter with toxic elements. T ose in charge of enforcing air quality standards told the Assembly committee it is critical that the problem is recognized in advance and planned for.
Hundreds of thousands of birds may be at the Sea at any one time.
“Prevention should be the solution rather than trying to mitigate after the fact,” said Barry Wallerstein, executive offi cer of the South Coast Air Quality Management District. T e district received more than 250 complaints in September 2012 regarding the rotten egg smell emanating from the Sea due to hydrogen sulfi de, Wallerstein said. T e complaints prompted the South Coast’s Board of Directors to al- locate $300,000 for equipment and staff time to set up monitoring stations. “We don’t believe this is a one-time
event,” he said. “To the extent the level of the Sea could diminish, we are con- cerned this could become much worse at some point in time and pose a public health risk.” Because of that potential, the district urges an expedited eff ort to determine how much a risk emissions from the Sea pose. “We think there’s a lot more work that needs to be done on the dust por- tion, including additional sampling of sediments to determine the level for toxic emissions occurring from wind borne dust,” Wallerstein said. Imperial County is designated by the
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) as nonattainment for the national ambient air quality standard for particu- late matter (PM), which is measured in microns in diameter (a human hair is about 60 microns). PM in airborne dust measured at 10 microns (PM10 ) is small enough to be inhaled and accumulate in the respiratory system. Health experts warn that particles
that remain in the airways can induce an infl ammatory response. T is infl am- mation can damage the cells lining the lungs and other cells in the airways. Such damage may reduce the body’s defense mechanisms and increase susceptibility to infections if exposed to viruses and bacteria. T e infl ammatory response can cause certain constituents of the blood to clot. Particles can also aff ect the nervous system, changing the pattern of breathing, heart rate and heart rate variability.
Summer 2013 • River Report • Colorado River Project • 7
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