Looking to ensure that concerns around public health, environmental protection, and economic well-being are being considered in key talks on the Salton Sea, Audubon California last week joined two other conservation organizations requested that they be included in talks between the State of California and the Imperial Irrigation District. Defenders of Wildlife and the Sierra Club were the other two signatories on a letter formally demanding that the State Water Resources Control Board include the three groups in the high-level talks that will have a direct impact on how the shrinking Salton Sea is managed.
In March, IID submitted a petition to the State Water Resources Control Board requesting an evidentiary hearing regarding efforts to address the crisis. In order to avoid holding the hearing, the State and IID have engaged in discussions to address some of IID’s concerns.
These negotiations take place as the State, IID, and stakeholders like Audubon struggle to develop a plan and implement projects to mitigate the impacts of the 2003 Quantification Settlement Agreement (QSA), which sent hundreds of thousands of acre-feet of water that once flowed to the Salton Sea to water users in San Diego and other urban areas. To facilitate IID’s agreement to the water transfers, the State committed to perform large-scale restoration to provide habitat and control the toxic dust that presents a health hazard for nearby communities, which are necessary to protect the 400 species of birds and the 650,000 people that nearby. Unfortunately, the State has yet to finalize a plan or build a single project to provide habitat or control dust.
Audubon California and its partners expect to be included in any negotiations about how the Salton Sea will be managed going forward. We will continue to push for sustainable management at the Salton Sea, to protect public health, provide habitat, and promote healthy economic development of local communities.