SD Editorial-Salton Sea

Chris

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This editorial exemplifies the attitude of the general public in southern California toward the Salton Sea...teach your kids to save their pennies to help save the rainforests, but don't spend a dime to save the ecosystem in your own backyard...classic!

Union-Tribune Editorial
People first
Urban needs must come before Salton Sea
February 3, 2002

There's one thing everybody must remember when talking about the future of the Salton Sea, the planned San Diego-Imperial Valley water transfer and Southern California's water supply in general.
Under a binding agreement with six other states, California must cut its annual allotment of Colorado River water by 800,000 acre-feet in the next 15 years, during which time our population will grow by millions. By comparison, the city of Los Angeles uses about 660,000 acre-feet a year and San Diego County uses about 700,000 acre-feet. To cut 800,000 acre-feet, California must move some water out of the desert agricultural districts, which control about 3.7 million acre-feet, to coastal cities.
If we don't do that, coastal cities will bear the brunt of water cuts, because our rights to water are subordinate to desert agricultural districts. The impact, particularly on San Diego County, which gets nearly all its water from the Colorado River, would be catastrophic. And, most important, if California doesn't show progress this year on improving its use of Colorado River water, U.S. Interior Secretary Gale Norton could cut that water supply – not 15 years from now, but next year. That would be even more catastrophic.
Following the recent release of the environmental study of the water transfer, some people are arguing that the transfer be rejected or scaled back because it would cause environmental damage to the Salton Sea. But either of those options would cause severe economic damages to urban Southern California.
The Salton Sea, as it exists today, is doomed as an ecologically viable habitat for hundreds of species of migratory birds. Like the Dead Sea or the Great Salt Lake, the Salton Sea will eventually reach a hyper-saline level when no fish will survive and birds therefore will have nothing to feed on. Proposals with price tags ranging from $500 million to $1.6 billion have been floated to "save" the Salton Sea, but it hasn't been proven that any of these plans will work. These plans include reducing salinity in only a small section of the sea at great cost, or other novel ideas that some experts conclude won't work at all.
Currently, the sea is fed by about 1 million acre-feet of agricultural runoff a year from the Imperial and Coachella valleys. It has very little natural inflow, and no outflow at all, only evaporation. But for a mistake of man a century ago, the sea wouldn't exist at all. The San Diego-Imperial Valley transfer would reduce the inflow, thus speeding up the sea's death throes. But it would only speed it up by a few years. Without any change in the current inflow, the sea will turn hyper-saline in two to three decades, if not sooner.
Mother Nature is at war with the Salton Sea. Left to her own devices, without human hands pouring farm runoff into it, she would make quick work of the Salton Sea, drying it up in a geological nanosecond, like a drop of water on a griddle. As it is, she's destroying its viability through a scorching evaporation rate.
Southern Californians must ask themselves whether it's worth it to risk the future of our Colorado River water supply in order to stave off the death of the Salton Sea for a few years. If we're precluded from transferring enough water from farms to cities, then we won't have enough water to support the economy or the population growth of urban Southern California when our Colorado River supply is reduced. We need to take a critical look at proposals to save the Salton Sea, and decide whether the meager results they might produce are worth creating a permanent, man-made drought for urban Southern California.

Copyright 2002 Union-Tribune Publishing Co.
 

KID CREOLE

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Chris,

The city of San Diego has been doing what they have too to get more water but when push comes to shove there aint no way in *&%$ they will allow the Sea to die.  With all of the birds and the fish that call the Salton Sea home the tree huggers will be our allies on this one.
 

huntducks

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San Diego best start looking into building some desalinization plants, and more water storage lakes now, but just like all Ca. city's they will wait till the last min hoping the federal govt or state will bail them out.

When Castro cut off water to Marine base in Cuba what did they do, built one of the worlds largest desalinization plants, and when Catalina was faced with years of drought thay built one, many of the costal middle east citys where they have little or no rain fall all have them.
 

foulshot

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With all the sewage we get from Mexico, they will need to build 2 plants.  One for cleaning and one for desalinazation.  Pretty soon we will be showering with bottled water here in SD.  I really think its time for me to move outta here.  
The place where we get our water sounds like a good place to replant my feet.
 

Chris

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I think this one's going to be a real tough fight, even for the tree huggers.  It's not like they're diverting water from a source that naturally flows into the Sea, it's much more indirect than that.  The water's there for agriculture then runs off into the Alamo and New rivers then to the Sea.  The tree huggers may have a tough time figuring out who to target.  I hope DU and CWA get involved.  It would also be nice if area newspaper columnists actually visited the places they were condeming...clearly this guy did not!
 

Chris

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The SD Union Tribune published 7 letters to the editor in response to this editorial.  In addition to those I've copied below were letters from Bill Karr at Western Outdoors News, and Kevin Doyle with National Wildlife Federation.

Salton Sea's friends extol its value

February 9, 2002
By stating that "but for a mistake of man a century ago, the sea wouldn't exist at all" is dead wrong. The sea existed on and off in the past as a result of nature's changing the course of the river, much the same as it has most rivers, and lakes. It could just as easily be argued that but for a mistake by man, the river would still be flowing through the Salton Sea, and on to the Gulf of California.
But whatever the reason, the sea has become a vitaly important part of the flyway and habitat for nearly 400 species of birds; the most diverse in western North America, according to the sea's Web site. And, 90 percent of California's wetlands at the time of statehood have been lost.
Yet you argue we need to sacrifice the sea, and therefore the wildlife, for yet more unbridled future growth. My vote goes, no pun intended, for the birds!
Here is also hoping, figuratively speaking, the next time the editorial staff at the Union-Tribune  needs to "let down" to find a little food, rest and shelter on their journey they find only dust, heat, and scorched earth and the necessity to "fly on."
BOB GILBERG
San Diego

Transferring water from the desert in favor of San Diego will enable the city's population to grow; with that will come more cars, more congestion, more smog, longer lines, reduced open space.
It will also cause an ecosystem that supports 80 percent of the American white pelicans, 95 percent of the continent's population of eared grebes, 50 percent of the ruddy ducks and 40 percent of the Yuma clapper rails to fail.
Seventy percent of the species of birds in the state have been seen at the sea, 40 percent of the state's breeding species have been counted here, more birds and greater diversity of species than any other spot in California.
You suggest that as the Salton Sea is dying it doesn't matter if water transfers seal its fate. The sea may be stressed, but it's nowhere near dead. It serves as a wonderful respite for nature-loving residents of a growing city such as San Diego to escape the hustle and bustle of life.
Are urban needs really best served by making more "urban" or are they served best by retaining a bit of the natural world?
STEVE HORVITZ Chairman – Save Our Sea II
Indio

The water swap through a farmer's eyes:
More water = more people. More people = more food. More food = more water.
Hey, where's my water to feed more people? See the problem?
AL KALIN Farmer
Westmorland

The real "urban needs" question is whether we should concern ourselves with the needs of kingpins in the urban development sector and their allies in government or with the needs of the urban populace as a whole.
The former want very much to bring in cheap water "to support . . . the population growth of urban Southern California." It's big bucks for them, and when things get too bad, they can just buy another luxury estate farther out in the countryside.
The urban populace as a whole, however, sees more value in halting growth-inducing water transfers, in stabilizing regional (and national) population density, and in preserving environmental treasures like the Salton Sea.
What is good water policy for the Salton Sea is good water policy for San Diego. Urban needs vs. the Salton Sea is an antithesis as false as they come.
STUART H. HURLBERT Director, Center for Inland Waters San Diego State University

Copyright 2002 Union-Tribune Publishing Co.
 

VA Native

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When you increase the country's population by 30 million people every 10 years, things like natural habitat suffer.  Anyone who thinks California or anywhere in the US will not suffer from population growth is not accepting reality.  Basically people need water, the more people, the more water.  The water demands are so great that there will not be any waterfowl habitat in southern california in the future.  It is too bad, I love hunting the salton sea.
 


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