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Salton Sea Ecological
Disaster Nears Climax

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It’s not only California that is headed for ecological disaster- Arizona will also feel the devastating effects.

“The wind blows most often from the west, so Arizonans are very concerned about it. Phoenix is very likely to be adversely affected,” Bradley warned.

The collapse of the Salton Sea will immediately affect a half a dozen bird species that use the Sea as a way station on the Pacific Flyway, a vital migration route for the birds.
“In 40 years or so, the Sea will be unusable by any birds and the most important feeding ground in California for birds migrating along the Pacific Flyway will have been lost. The failure of the US and California to protect migratory birds is in violation of the International Migratory Bird Act, but it is unlikely that any other nation will press us on that point.”

Unfortunately, there is no easy solution. Bradley is working on exploring several options, from water import to dividing to sea to desalination, but every solution has downsides.

“The center overriding problem, however, is the lack of funds to carry out any of the solutions. Until the State of California and the US government decide to invest money, we are simply on a downhill slope to a vast, regional environmental and economic catastrophe.”

The California EPA doubts the severity of the problem illustrated by the Salton Sea Initiative. In an email, The California Air Resources Board states that “air quality consultants working for the Imperial Irrigation District doing pilot testing of dust control measures have found that deep tilling with bull plows achieves the desired 95 per cent control of windblown dust from exposed sediments (“playa”).  This control measure is now being applied to much of the playa exposed along the southern rim of the Salton Sea.  If clouds of windblown dust were to occur at the Salton Sea, the dust is estimated to settle out of the air before reaching the mountain ranges to the east of the Sea, much less the Arizona state line.”

The Board acknowledges that Selenium levels have been found at levels causing bird eggs to soften, resulting in the death of the chick. They deny that other pesticides or toxic metals are present at levels that would cause a risk to human health.

Sandy Bahr, Chapter Director of the Grand Canyon Chapter of the Sierra Club, expressed that the chapter is concerned about the problem. She emphasizes that to adequately address the problem, leadership from elected officials would be essential- but in today’s political climate, she doubts that will happen.

Bahr stated, “Yes I think it is a problem, and yes Arizona should be concerned. It is ridiculous that we are not working more cooperatively with our neighbors on air quality, water quality and quantity, and certainly on climate change. Unfortunately, our policy makers currently seem to be more interested in just saying it is California’s fault. I think the whole issue points to why we need strong federal laws and enforcement of those laws to address cross-boundary issues with air and water pollution.”

While the Salton Sea Initiative waits for funding, the countdown slowly ticks lower and lower.
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