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California’s new Salton Sea plan won’t stop environmental disaster, Redlands expert says

By in Press Enterprise on November 8, 2017

By Jim Steinberg

California’s Water Resources Control Board described its new Salton Sea plan as a landmark agreement, but at least one expert is questioning the modified approach, calling it “Band-Aids to a very serious environmental disaster.”

With water deliveries from the Colorado River coming to a halt at the end of this year, the shrinking lake will be reduced at an even faster rate, which the state says poses a public health risk due to particulate air pollution by dust blown from the exposed lake bed.

The rapidly declining water levels will also increase the lake’s salinity, threatening fish that are essential for migrating birds, including several threatened and endangered species, the state said in a statement.

“To counter these negative developments, the state’s 10-year plan calls for construction of 29,800 acres of ponds, wetlands and dust-suppression projects on portions of the exposed lakebed. The plan outlines annual targets for completion, beginning with 500 acres in 2018 and ramping up to 4,200 acres in 2028. The agreement further commits the state to create a long-term plan beyond the initial 10 years, the statement said.

But Timothy Krantz, professor of environmental studies at the University of Redlands, said the construction of nearly 30,000 acres of ponds “are only band-aids to a very serious environmental disaster.”

“Our models at the Salton Sea Database at the University of Redlands indicate about 90,000 acres (140 square miles) of lake bed exposure over that same period,” said Krantz, program director for the database.

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