In this series, The Desert Sun investigates the crisis of the shrinking Salton Sea, from its worsening dust storms to its disappearing birds. The lake is becoming a toxic dust bowl — nearly 15 years after California lawmakers promised to fix it.
Archive for date: June 13th, 2017
Salton Sea’s creation was nothing but a big accident. In 1905, irrigation canals on the banks of the Colorado River broke, flooding the Salton basin and submerging the town of Salton. By 1907, the canals were fixed, yet, the lake had been already formed. Initially, the new lake was marketed as a “miracle in the desert.” In the 50s and 60s, it attracted over half a million tourists per year. Even Hollywood stars, like the Beach Boys and Sonny Bono would visit regularly.
For the past 5 years, parched Californians suffered through the state’s worst drought. Wildfires, reduced crop production, environmental damage, cities running dry – all were part of the misery. But with the drought now broken by an unprecedented wet season and snow pack, it’s possible to look back and see the positives develop, especially when it comes to the state budget. Many homeowners dealt with the stress of monitoring water usage in their homes to avoid fines and penalties, with the result that water was conserved.
Now that we’re all good and trained in responsible residential irrigation management, the Bakersfield Water Board is set to consider dropping drought-prompted watering restrictions today. We urge the board not to do so. You might ask, Why not? We’ve got a nice, broad flow in the lower Kern River, to cite but one highly visible example of our current state of plenty.Because, to cite that same example, the status quo is a barren, dry river bed. The West is in a constant and ongoing state of drought, interrupted by relatively uncommon water surplus like the situation we’re enjoying now.
The president of the United States wants to “drain the swamp.” Of course he is using this saying as a metaphor for mismanagement and government waste. It seems to me that California, however, is hell bent to drain the Sierra Nevada – in the literal sense – as if this action was without consequence. While I support “draining the swamp” of excess bureaucracy, I am opposed to California’s “draining the Sierra” or taking water from one ecological region to meet the environmental needs of another.
In light of the crisis at Oroville Dam earlier this year, state regulators have begun ordering up-close inspections of aging dams throughout California. In a letter received by the San Luis Obispo County’s Public Works department on June 12, the chief of California’s Division of Safety of Dams ordered the county’s flood-control district to complete a “comprehensive condition assessment” of the Lopez Dam’s spillway. “We completed a reconnaissance-level assessment of the spillway at Lopez Dam and have noted that structure may have potential geologic, structural, or performance issues that could jeopardize its ability to safely pass a flood event,” the letter stated.
A groundwater basin monitoring contract between the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California and GeoPentech, Inc., to monitor the Domenigoni Basin has been approved. The $160,000 contract was authorized as part of a May 9 MWD board vote. GeoPentech, which is headquartered in Irvine, will monitor the basin west of Diamond Valley Lake. Water first flowed into Diamond Valley Lake in 1999. MWD approved the project, including an Environmental Impact Report, in 1991. The EIR identified a need to mitigate groundwater flows after the reservoir’s construction, and MWD currently mitigates downstream impacts with engineered seepage from Diamond Valley Lake and from the San Diego Canal.
Love it or hate it, the Delta tunnels project is reaching a decision point. The state’s most powerful water agencies have set a September goal to decide whether they’re going pay for the biggest and most controversial water project California has undertaken since the 1960s: overhauling the plumbing system that pumps billions of gallons of water through the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta to the Bay Area, Southern California and one of the nation’s most productive farm belts.