Residents and officials who packed a yacht club on the north shore of the Salton Sea in Southern California on Tuesday vented their anger about what they perceive as unnecessary delays and obfuscations about the environmental and public health disaster unfolding here. The California Water Resources Control Board held the workshop at the North Shore Yacht and Beach Club designed to both inform the public and garner the opinions and experiences of residents living in proximity to the sea, which is rapidly vanishing into the desert.
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Seven states that rely on a major waterway in the U.S. West have finished a yearslong effort to create a plan to protect the Colorado River amid a prolonged drought, the federal government declared Tuesday. U.S. Bureau of Reclamation Commissioner Brenda Burman commended Arizona, California, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah and Wyoming for reaching a consensus on the Colorado River drought contingency plan. Now the states are seeking approval from Congress to implement it.
It could be called the Washington Avenue shuffle. Three times now, Escondido has proposed building a large recycled water treatment plant on lots along Washington Avenue, first near its eastern terminus, the second time in the middle of the city, and now near the western end of the street. The first try was on city-owned land near where the street ends at El Norte Parkway, property surrounded on three sides by newer housing whose residents screamed bloody murder. That location was rejected by the City Council in 2016.
It’s done. The Colorado River Board of California voted 8-1-1 Monday to sign on to a multi-state drought contingency plan, which, somewhat ironically, might not be needed for two years because of an exceptionally wet winter. The process was fractious until the very end, with blistering rebukes from the river’s largest water user, and charges that state and federal laws were possibly being violated to cross the finish line.
AquaCycl, a San Diego-based wastewater treatment startup, took home the grand prize at the San Diego Angel Conference on March 15. A panel of angel investors that had vetted the finalists for months selected AquaCycl as the winner, for a $200,000 cash prize. The company was also voted in as the audience favorite. AquaCycl was co-founded in 2016 by CEO Orianna Bretschger, Vice President of R&D Sofia Babanova and Vice President of Hardware and Manufacturing Ryoji Naito. The company developed a technology that uses electricity-generating bacteria to speed up wastewater treatment rates, resulting in a more efficient, lower-cost option.
The Metropolitan Water District of Southern California on Tuesday sealed California’s participation in a landmark Colorado River drought management plan, agreeing to shoulder more of the state’s future delivery cuts to prevent Lake Mead from falling to dangerously low levels. With California signed on, the plan can move to Congress, which must approve the multi-state agreement before it takes effect. The MWD board took the step over the objections of the Imperial Irrigation District, which holds senior rights to the biggest allocation of river water on the entire length of the Colorado.
As the water pulls back from long-time shorelines along California’s Salton Sea, officials are working to keep dust from the exposed lake bottom out of the air. Bruce Wilcox of the California Resources Agency looked out at what is now the new normal on the 35-mile-long lake’s southeastern shore. “Fifteen years ago there was water right where we’re standing and it’s just receded that much,” Wilcox said as he stood on a spur of land that used to be part of a boat launch.
As the Trump administration moves toward a drought contingency plan for the Colorado River, the Bureau of Reclamation is pushing legislation that would exempt its work from environmental reviews. That includes potential impacts on what has emerged as a major sticking point in the drought negotiations: Southern California’s Salton Sea, a public health and ecological disaster. Draft legislation obtained by E&E News would authorize the Interior secretary to implement the drought plan “notwithstanding any other provision of law” and “without delay.”
A major Southern California water agency is trying to push the state through a final hurdle in joining a larger plan to preserve a key river in the U.S. West that serves 40 million people. Most of the seven states that get water from the Colorado River have signed off on plans to keep the waterway from crashing amid a prolonged drought, climate change and increased demands. But California and Arizona have not, missing deadlines from the federal government.
It’s official: California is 100% drought-free. For the first time since 2011, the state shows no areas suffering from prolonged drought and illustrates almost entirely normal conditions, according to a map released Thursday by the U.S. Drought Monitor. Former Gov. Jerry Brown issued an executive order in 2017 that lifted the drought emergency in most of the state, leaving some breathing a sigh of relief. But he cautioned Californians to keep saving water as some parts of the state were still suffering from extreme drought.