The California Water Resources Control Board (the Board) has announced it will hold a public hearing during its regularly scheduled board session on Nov. 7 and Nov. 8. During this meeting, the Board will consider action on a Draft Stipulated Order amending the 2002 Water Rights Order that approved the long-term transfer of water from the Imperial Irrigation District (IID) to the San Diego County Water Authority (Water Authority). The amended order, if approved, would further address the Salton Sea, establishing annual milestones the State must meet as part of its Salton Sea Management Program (SSMP) Phase One Ten-Year Plan. The two-day meeting will be held at Metropolitan Water District of Southern California’s Los Angeles headquarters.
The Board scheduling a vote on the Draft Stipulated Order is a positive step forward toward the State implementing its restoration program at the Sea and getting projects built. The proposed amended order was developed as a collaboration between IID, Imperial County, the Water Authority, the California Natural Resources Agency and environmental groups, including: Audubon Society, Defenders of Wildlife, Sierra Club California, and the Pacific Institute. These agencies and organizations have come together in compromise to support a program for the Salton Sea which sets the stage for a critical period of development at the Sea—should the Board approve the Draft Stipulated Order.
If approved, the amended order would not only establish annual milestones the State must meet under the initial ten-year phase one of its SSMP but also establish a deadline to develop a longer-term plan for managing what would be a smaller but sustainable sea. The milestones would focus on both the need for air quality projects and the development of habitat at the Sea. The amended order also continues to recognize the four-part Air Quality Management Plan approved as part of the original Water Rights Order. That four-part plan has been implemented and will continue to be implemented by a Joint Powers Authority (JPA) consisting of IID, the Water Authority, the Coachella Valley Water District and the State as part of a mitigation program to address any specific effects at the Sea resulting from the transfer of water. That mitigation effort is separate from the State’s larger responsibility to address restoration at the Sea, but mitigation and restoration can work hand-in-hand to ensure public health is protected.
To see the complete Draft Stipulated Order, visit the page set up by the State Water Control Board at: https://www.waterboards.ca.gov/waterrights/water_issues/programs/salton_sea/
It has taken a long time to get to this point, and even if the State Water Board approves the amended order, there remains a long road ahead and challenging milestones that must be met. However, the ten-year phase-one plan, in unison with the amended order, represents a strong path forward to address issues at the Salton Sea. With $80 million already set aside as part of a previous water bond and with a new water and parks bond approved by Gov. Jerry Brown as a June 2018 ballot item—one that would include $200 million—for the sea, there is a real chance to finally see a State-managed restoration effort at the sea begin development.
Keep in mind, the JPA is already moving forward with mitigation projects on exposed playa at the sea with more projects to come. And earth work is underway on a Federal project—aided by IID and funded, in part by the JPA, at Red Hill Marina that would provide shallow habitat on more than 500 acres of exposed playa.
As always, stay tuned to this blog for updated information on efforts at the Salton Sea and for questions contact Water Authority QSA Outreach Coordinator Darren Simon at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 760.337.1386.