Updates from the Feb. 18 Salton Sea Authority meeting

A 2015 file photo from the shores of the Salton Sea.

A 2015 file photo from the shores of the Salton Sea.

The Feb. 18 Salton Sea Authority (SSA) meeting revealed ongoing momentum at the Salton Sea as projects begin construction and new grant funding becomes available. For those unfamiliar with the SSA, it is a joint powers authority made up of representatives from the Imperial Irrigation District Board of Directors, Imperial County Board of Supervisors, Riverside County Board of Supervisors, the Coachella Valley Water District Board of Directors and members of the Torres Martinez Desert Cahuilla Tribe. The SSA meets monthly to address Salton Sea issues.

During the Feb. 18 meeting, Bruce Wilcox, Assistant Secretary for Salton Sea Policy under California Natural Resources, reported that construction is underway on the 420-acre shallow habitat project at Red Hill Marina on the southeast section of the Salton Sea. That project, most of which is expected to be completed in 2016, will cover an area of exposed play noted to be highly emissive. It is a project led by the Sonny Bono National Wildlife Refuge with support from the Imperial Irrigation District and funding from the State’s Financial Assistance Program (established under the Salton Sea Restoration Fund generated in part by restoration funding provided by IID, the San Diego County Water Authority and Coachella Valley Water District as part of the Quantification Settlement Agreement).

Wilcox also reported that the 640-acre Species Conservation Habitat project—a State Department of Water Resources-led project—will begin construction this year in an area where the New River flows into the Sea. Transmission lines to power the project already are under construction. That project will entail building a series of ponds that would provide habitat for fish and as a result the migratory bird population while covering exposed playa. Phase one of the project is 640 acres, but at full build-out the project will cover nearly 4,000 acres.

Valerie Simon, Salton Sea Manager for the Bureau of Reclamation Lower Colorado Region, reported the awarding of a $3 million federal grant to build a wetlands project along the Alamo River, which feeds into the Salton Sea. The wetlands project will serve as a filter, improving the water quality that flows into the Sea, which will have a positive impact on water quality within the Sea just as previous wetlands projects have had along the New River.

Stay tuned for more to come on the Salton Sea as 2016 will be a pivotal time in planning for the sea’s future. California Natural Resources has a March 31 deadline to present a list of shovel-ready projects to the Legislature and a Task Force established by Gov. Jerry Brown is under direction to develop both short- and mid-term projects at the Sea. Planning will also include long-term projects.