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Although the Salton Sea has tremendous potential for fisheries, wildlife, and recreation, its current rate of decline will ultimately eliminate any future possibilities to realize these potentials unless a smaller, initial phase plan can be implemented. The current level of salinity (45,000 mg/l) is already 5,000 mg/l above that at which biologists believe the Sea's main fishery, corvina, can spawn (40,000 mg/l). It is estimated that in 10 years the salinity of the Sea will be approximately 55,000 mg/l and at this level many species that are currently an important part of the Sea's food chain will be extirpated thus transforming the Sea into a less diverse ecosystem.

From the "bigger picture" alternatives described in this Paper, the initial phase of an incremental plan can be elaborated. This incremental plan should begin by identifying common elements of the most likely "bigger picture" alternatives and then implementing smaller initial phase components of these ideas, which would arrest the decline of the Sea as well as test the genuine feasibility of those "bigger picture" ideas. Such a plan, as seen in Figure 11, is recommended to include:


1. Shore-Line Enhancement Areas
The development of perhaps one or two shore-line enhancement areas in each county could have many immediate benefits. Some of these may include improved recreation and interpretation facilities, wildlife habitat, "freshwater" areas for fisheries, etc.

It is recommended that further study be done on area needs, potentials and designs and on how to maximize the benefit of shore-line enhancements for the Sea and the local communities.

2. Development of Evaporative Areas

The development of approximately 20,000 acres of evaporation areas, in the most inexpensive manner possible, would help to keep the Sea at present salinity levels. Several areas in the southern region of the Sea appear to be suitable for this type of land use; however, it is recommended that a detailed land use study take place to identify specific areas and evaluate their suitability.

3. Construct a Sample Salt Pond Solar Power Generation Facility

Proceed with a solar salt pond power plant that would generate approximately 40 MW at a scale of 10 - 45 acre ponds. Actual costs, power production and revenues would then be determined and could be used to project costs and revenues for potential larger facilities.

4. Constructed Wetlands/Wildlife Habitat

The Wildlife Conservation Board may have funding available for the construction of wetlands and wildlife habitat that would increase the quality and quantity of habitat for migratory and resident species. These areas may also help to alleviate, or reduce, pollutants entering the Sea from the New, Alamo and Whitewater Rivers. A 1,000 acre test site is recommended to be constructed at one of the three river mouths.

5. Investigate and Implement Sample Alternate Creative Ideas that Address Selenium

Several universities and the Bureau of Reclamation have done some work in the area of alternative ways to address the clean up of high levels of selenium. Some ideas that have been looked at include fixation into local aquifers, created wetlands, and microbial digestion. Alternative ideas should be further researched and implemented as appropriate.

6. Investigate the Potential to Sell Water to MWD

The Metropolitan Water District of Southern California has expressed interest in the purchase of any additional water that might be available. The sale of this water would generate revenue for the enhancement of the Sea. Potential sources of water for sale could result from operation of a reverse osmosis or distillation plant.

7. Investigate Interest on Part of Power Companies to do Solar or Pumped Storage

It is believed that there may be several areas appropriate for pumped storage facilities in the Salton Sea area that merit further study. If feasible, these facilities would generate revenue for the Sea as well as address issues of salinity and stability.

8. Investigate International Interest on the Feasibility of a Joint Project

It is recommended that the feasibility of an international economic development project with major environmental benefits between Mexico and the U.S. be investigated. Discussions between the Mexican government and the International Boundary Waters Commission may uncover any interest from Mexico to enter into a joint project of this kind.

Three potential options to explore with Mexico include:

  • Discharge of Salton Sea water in the Gulf only
  • Solar Power/Pumped Storage Project
  • Pumped Storage Project only

9. Investigate Environmental Benefits and Constraints

The Authority has already proceeded with this process in the development of a Request for Qualifications/Proposals via the Clean Lakes Program grant. Alternatives for the remediation of the Sea should be reviewed for environmental and economic values.

10. Develop Conceptual Master Plan for the Salton Sea

In looking beyond solving existing problems to creating new opportunities, the Authority should consider working with affected agencies and interests to develop more complete goals and objectives for the Salton Sea before implementing any remediation actions. Either a general plan level document or a coordinated resource management plan might be an ideal vehicle for establishing a policy direction and conceptual plans for the future of the Salton Sea and adjacent lands. Development of a comprehensive plan would enable the Authority to evaluate remediation alternatives in the context of longer term goals and objectives, and to identify opportunities created by the rehabilitation of the Sea and the best strategies for capitalizing on them. Accompanying environmental documents would provide a sound basis for decision-making and might function as a program EIR for later project specific planning.

11. Follow Through on Suggested Funding and Implementation Measures

The following are recommended actions related to funding that may underwrite some of the cost of restoring the Salton Sea. This report has not significantly investigated these potential sources since its primary thrust was to evaluate potential revenue generating concepts.


1. Investigate possible legislation that would allocate funds from:
a) Salton Sea State Recreation Area

Several decades ago the State Recreation Area had approximately 550,000 user days each year, today the Recreation Area sees approximately 85,000 user days each year. As these numbers continue to decrease, due to the Sea's poor condition, revenue for the state will continue to decrease until the Sea becomes stagnant and the Recreation Area closes, ending all revenue from the Recreation Area.

One potential source for funding may be legislation that would allocate user fee revenue from the Recreation Area to the remediation costs of the Sea. If done for a thirty year period, revenue bonds could multiply this funding several-fold. This would ultimately help to solve those issues associated with the Sea that have discouraged recreation use. With the restoration more recreational visitors would be attracted to the Recreation Area and thus more revenue for the State in the long run.

b) Salton Sea fishing license stamps

Another potential funding source would be special legislation authorizing the State Department of Fish and Game to institute a special Salton Sea stamp on all fishing activities at the Salton Sea. These could then be earmarked exclusively for restoration purposes and authorization granted for use to repay revenue bonds.

c) Tax increments/financing

A third potential would be legislation authorizing the Salton Sea Authority to establish a special form of redevelopment agency surrounding the Sea. This could then be utilized to capture an increment of the increased property taxes from future improvements and value increases resulting from a restored Salton Sea.

2. Investigate and secure any and all State funding possibilities.

State funding possibilities that could be used at the Salton Sea include funds for state recreation area improvements, Wildlife Conservation Board expenditures, state funds from Boating and Waterways for boating facilities, etc.

These state agencies may have funding available in the future for planning and project implementation. These funding sources should be followed closely, and funds should be directed to the Salton Sea as appropriate opportunities present themselves.


1. Monitor long term grant possibilities from BOR, USF&WS and EPA.

For future funding possibilities these federal agencies may have funding available periodically for planning and project implementation. These funding sources should be followed closely, and funds should be directed to the Salton Sea as appropriate opportunities present themselves.

BOR may have additional money to complete studies of the sea and fund initial problem/solution identification studies, planning studies and implementation/construction costs.


1. Investigate possibility of water assessments.

As described in Table 2, assessments on agriculture and urban water users in the Salton Sea area, combined with visitor fees, would provide revenues for the sale of bonds, raising the initial capital dollars needed to begin remediation efforts. As improvements to the Sea became significant, new development would be motivated and tax increment revenues would begin to contribute to the funding package.

2. Investigate possibility of benefit assessments.

It is recommended that a study be performed in Imperial County and the Coachella Valley portion of Riverside County to evaluate the geographic extent of the area of benefit from an improvement to the Salton Sea. A study of this nature would provide the basis for the possible institution of a benefit assessment on the land within this zone. Information we obtained indicated there were 27,000 parcels in the immediate vicinity of the Salton Sea. The study should also verify this number as well as determine the number within the larger benefit zone within the two Counties.

3. Investigate possible water sales to the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California.

As described earlier in this paper, up to 500,000 ac-ft/yr of water may be available through conservation and desalinization. It is our understanding that MWD has expressed a need for an additional 600,000 ac-ft/yr from the Colorado River. Negotiations among MWD, CVWD and IID would need to occur and decide whether or not this is a true possibility and how the purchase of such water could offset Salton Sea remediation costs.

4. Investigate needs and possibilities of power generation.

A representative of Southern California Edison informally offered to see if Edison would perform an investigative study for the power generation ideas outlined in this report. In addition, the alternative energy company of ORMAT, INC., which performed a preliminary study of a small salt pond project at the Sea in 1989, may also be interested in additional studies in this area. If either the pump storage or solar pond concepts prove to be feasible they could offset most of the costs of Sea remediation. We recommend that the Salton Sea Authority request these two companies to assist in these evaluations.


1. Investigate potential for mitigation banking

There may be many needs for wetlands mitigation credits within the region. The Sea would be an excellent place to build additional wetlands which would satisfy mitigation needs elsewhere, while assisting to help clean up the inflow to the Sea and increase the amount of quality habitat within the Pacific Flyway. A preliminary evaluation of this possibility should be made with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the California Department of Fish and Game.

First Stage Incremental Plan

Figure 11