#SaltonSea: “It is a disaster in the making, yet it is an afterthought’ — The Los Angeles Times #ColoradoRiver #COriver #aridification

Here’s an editorial from The Los Angeles Times Editorial Board. Click through and read the whole thing. Here’s an excerpt:

California’s largest internal body of water is steadily drying up, exposing a lake bed that threatens to trigger toxic dust storms and exacerbate already high levels of asthma and other respiratory diseases in Southern California.

Yet there is something about the Salton Sea that leads many lawmakers to ignore the urgency and put off remediation programs. It’s just so far south — off the mental map of officials who represent more densely populated urban areas to the north, like Los Angeles. It is hydrologically unconnected to the Bay Area and the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta, which supplies water for so much of the state’s agricultural and residential use. It is a disaster in the making, yet it is an afterthought.

That attitude is understandably galling to residents of the adjacent Imperial Valley, who are (for now) the ones most affected by the increasing dust and who have witnessed firsthand the degrading ecological conditions. They have heard officials promise repeatedly to fix this catastrophe by creating wetlands that moisten the exposed bed and sustain an ecosystem that continues to support migratory birds on the Pacific Flyway. They have repeatedly seen those promises broken.

The dimensions of the failure were for many years merely theoretical, but they became real in the winter just past. As the rain and snow washed away drought and at least temporarily diminished environmental problems in the rest of the state, the contraction of the Salton Sea accelerated. Increasing salinity kept the lake from sustaining even the salt-hardy tilapia. The birds failed to appear…

That leaves a shrinking lake, lots of broken promises and a looming disaster. Both California and the feds have to do better than this — especially if they want to encourage agreements such as the one that makes Imperial Valley farmers more water-wise while keeping San Diego residents from deep rationing. The Salton Sea is not going away, even if it goes away. It can become a wetland and wildlife preserve, or it can become — if we let it — a health and ecological catastrophe.

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