For those of us living near the Salton Sea, 2020 began much like 2019. Another year has passed and promised solutions have vanished like the receding waters of the Sea itself.
We hear new assurances from the state of California that this year we will finally see progress on projects to control dust and create habitat as the Salton Sea shrinks. Meanwhile, 650,000 people that live near the sea and the hundreds of species of birds wait for even one project be completed.
The Salton Sea has been declining for years, due in large part to massive water transfers from the farms in Imperial Valley to Southern California cities. When the transfers were approved in 2003, the state of California promised it would develop and implement a plan to reduce dust emissions and offset habitat losses that would occur as the sea shrank. Almost two decades later, powerful water districts like the Metropolitan Water District and the San Diego Water Authority are getting their water, but communities at the Salton Sea have yet to receive the benefits of even a single project completed by the state to offset the transfers.
Gov. Gavin Newsom has acknowledged that the state’s lethargy is inexcusable. As a gubernatorial candidate, he asked residents near the Salton Sea to hold him accountable for his administration’s commitment to action.
While the governor’s team has improved over past efforts, one year into his term the Salton Sea continues to recede unabated, dust plumes rise, and birds disappear. We are now hearing about revised plans and new deadlines.
We are still waiting.