The Salton Sea is in trouble, according to a video report published by the BBC on Tuesday, April 24. The closed inland lake lies in Imperial and Riverside Counties and gets what little water it has from agricultural runoff. The lake, which lies at the heart of a popular RV boondocking area, might cease to exist. As of April 26, Salton Sea is a top 20 trend on Google.
KXO Radio reported Tuesday that the Imperial Irrigation District Board held a closed-door meeting on April 25 to discuss, among other issues, possible litigation regarding a controversial water transfer deal that takes water away from the Salton Sea: see below.
Meanwhile, RV boondockers accustomed to camping anywhere near the inland lake or in the nearby Slabs could well find a favorite spot compromised and no longer a healthy place to stop. (Story continues below.)
San Diego-Imperial County water transfer deal threatens Salton Sea and its bird population
The problem is that in 2003, San Diego County struck a deal with the Imperial Valley irrigation area—i.e. Yuma–to buy that runoff water; it would no longer rely on the Colorado River, but the Salton Sea has been getting less and less water.
According to ‘UT San Diego,’ the Imperial County Board of Supervisors and Imperial County Air Pollution Control District were among those fighting the transfer in court, saying that a full environmental study had not been done. The California Supreme Court upheld the water transfer deal, the largest in U.S. history, last month.
The result of the deal, explains the Audubon Society on its Salton Sea website, is that the lake will eventually dry up and toxic dust containing arsenic, selenium and other nasty chemicals would spread over the desert south.
It only takes a five- to 10 mph wind to whip up dust in the area, which already suffers from dust devils and violent dust storms. Any RVer who has ever encountered the latter knows that they are frightening and not at all trivial.
Additionally, a major habitat would be lost for birds, which use the Salton Sea as a migratory stopping-point. Already, the Salton Sea has become saltier and fish are dying, which mean birds have nothing to eat. And communities around the lake would be threatened too.
And yet, despite all this, in March Riverside County approved the development of a new 40,000-person town at Travertine Point. The Center for Biological Diversity and the Sierra Club have filed a lawsuit, citing excessive strain on the lake and pollution, and the possible residents may not have beachfront property a decade from now.
What is the Salton Sea and how did it form?
The Salton Sea covers 376 square miles and was formed when the Colorado River flooded in 1905—specifically, irrigation channels jumped their levees and millions of gallons rushed into the Salton Trough. According to the Audubon Society, the Salton Sea is currently 226 ft. below sea level. Before then, the area was part of the California Delta, but had become desert. Now it may become desert again—this time with nasty pesticides.
California State Parks currently administers Salton Sea as the Salton Sea State Recreation Area. According to the state park website, the SRA has five campgrounds: Varner Harbor and Mecca Beach Campgrounds are more developed, while the shoreline campgrounds of Corvina, Salt Creek, and Bombay Beach are primitive.
True boondocking is available outside of Mecca; however, the most well-known boondocking area is east of Niland, at the southeastern point of Salton Sea—the Slabs. The Anza-Borrego Desert State Park is also close by. If you’ve always wanted to see Salton Sea and find out what all the fuss is about, don’t wait too long. If the worst happens, 10 years from now, there may not be a Salton Sea.
Sources: BBC; Audubon Society; UT San Diego; NPR KQED; KXO Radio
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