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Proposal To Use Colorado River Water To Dilute Salton Sea Dropped
On The Net: Bureau Of Reclamation -- The Lower Colorado River
Tuesday, August 1, 2000

RIVERSIDE, Calif. (AP) -- A proposal to use Colorado River water to dilute and cure the Salton Sea has been dropped from the sea's draft restoration report being prepared by a team of local and federal agencies.

The Salton Sea Authority, a joint powers agency that consists of local water districts and officials, planned to announce Tuesday that the restoration report will be expanded to see if solar ponds are a viable option for desalting the sea.

The Salton Sea was created in 1905 when the Colorado River blew through a dike as farmers sought to divert water to irrigate Imperial Valley crops. Now, fed only by irrigation runoff and sewage, it's 25 percent saltier that the ocean.

Using Colorado River water to dilute the sea has been dropped from the draft restoration report, the Riverside Press-Enterprise reported Tuesday. Authority spokesman Tom Kirk confirmed the report.

The team's initial draft plan, released in January, laid out five multimillion-dollar options that relied generally on a network of evaporation machines to reduce the sea's salinity. Criticism forced the team to rethink those options.

There was opposition from water agencies that rely on Colorado River water and from environmentalists who want any extra river water to revitalize the wetlands downstream in the Colorado River delta in Mexico, Kirk said.

``It has not been easy to develop a restoration plan, and we must continue to rely on good science to guide restoration of the sea,'' Deputy U.S. Interior Secretary David Hayes said.

The Interior Department, through the Bureau of Reclamation, and the Salton Sea Authority have now set a Jan.1 deadline to come up with a restoration plan.

``It's not the best news, but you have to understand the big picture. This is a huge undertaking,'' said Rusty Payne, spokesman for Rep. Mary Bono, R-Palm Springs, who has championed the sea's restoration in Congress.

The Salton Sea is a crucial stop for migrating birds traveling the Pacific Flyway and fowl have been dying because of the sea's polluted waters.

Use of solar ponds to alleviate the Salton Sea's salinity was suggested by an engineering firm that reviewed the draft plan. The authority plans to hire a contractor to build two ponds near Niland to test the theory.

Such ponds, used for decades by industry for salt harvesting, allow the salt to evaporate naturally as it moves through a series of shallow ponds, becoming increasingly concentrated. The salt eventually becomes so concentrated that in the final pond, it turns into chunks that can be discarded.

The higher-tech, evaporation machine named in the draft plan would be either a system of misting towers or another similar to snow-blowing machines that would, in effect, suck up the salty water and spray it into the desert air, where it would evaporate, allowing the dried salt chunks to fall to the ground.


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