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Salton Sea: CA's Overlooked Treasure

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Laflin, P., 1995. The Salton Sea: California's overlooked treasure. The Periscope, Coachella Valley Historical Society, Indio, California. 61 pp. (Reprinted in 1999)

THE SALTON SEA 
CALIFORNIA'S OVERLOOKED TREASURE

Chapter 10

SPEEDBOATS IN THE DESERT

"Low barometric pressure and greater water density make the Salton Sea the fastest body of water in the world for speedboat racing," proclaimed an article in National Motorist for January-February, 1950. The article goes on to say that during October a Speedboat Regatta, sponsored by the American Power Boat Association, is held at Desert Beach, the Sea's principal resort. That's 20 years after a Salton Sea Race Program made the front page of the Coachella Submarine of December 13, 1929. Much of the credit goes to a small group of local enthusiasts. These "dry land sailors" started racing on the sea, then took their boats to Elsinore and elsewhere, and sailors from those places started coming to the sea. There were no graded roads down to the sea, and just getting to the water was an adventure. Mecca was the "jumping off point', and Mecca farmers were called upon with regularity to pull out stalled cars. Locals also laid out the racing courses. Ted Gordon rigged up a raft with his own version of a pile driver and with two transit men on the beach to center them, the volunteer workers drove two inch pipes in water ten to fifteen feet deep to make two of the best courses in the country. The Salton Sea Boat Race of December 14, 1929 was particularly exciting because rough waters at regattas at Lake Elsinore and Long Beach that year had kept down speed and there was great expectation that records would fall at Salton Sea. Prizes included the $450 Mackay Circuit Trophy, the $400 trophies awarded by Richfield Oil Co., and the $500 Warren S. Ripple prize, offered for the first Johnson motor to make 50 miles per hour. Both days promised to be busy ones. A loud speaker truck from one of the large oil companies was to be there to announce results as soon as the boats crossed the finish line. Boy Scouts would serve refreshments. This was to be the first race in which Eastern boats and pilots had entered competition with the West, and rivalry was expected to be keen. A follow-up newspaper article of December 16 reported that about 2,000 people attended the event, "mostly outside people with not as many locals as expected. There were five new world records set at this Salton Sea event.

Local racers were active in competition outside the valley. In the same newspaper which reported the upcoming regatta on December 14 and 15, 1929, there was a front page article entitled, "Covington Wins Famous Trophy." Mr. Covington was reported to have the coveted O.K. Hunsaker Trophy, valued at $300 on display in the window of the C.O. Murphy sporting goods store in Coachella, so that the public may look it over, and see that local yachtsmen are on the job in the outboard racing game.

Don Pearson recalls personally the early days of boat racing on the Salton Sea in these words: "It was in the late 1920s that hydroplane racing was innovated on the Salton Sea. The low altitude was thought to be ideal for carburetion and there was talk that this was the 'fastest body of water in the world.'

"Three local men became involved in hydroplane racing and the Salton Sea Yacht Club was organized to sponsor these races. My dad, A.L. Pearson, had his grocery store, C.L. Covington had the meat market and C.E. Murphy had a feed store. My dad named his boat the "Desert Kid", C.L. Covington was the "Diamond C" and Murphy was the "Shamrock". They raced at Lake Elsinore as well as Salton Sea.

"There were some "monied" people traveling this circuit and it soon became apparent in 1929 that small business-men did not belong. Loretta Tumbull, whose father was a judge in Monrovia, was perhaps the first girl to receive recognition as a hydroplane racer. Rodney Pantages used to show up with his wife, driving their "Cord". Bobrich, of Bobrich's Ammonia also sponsored boats. Perhaps the most amusing race was one in which my brother, in our relatively slow boat, nearly won from two of the most noted racers. They became so intent on each other that they missed the course, but they recovered in time to correct their mistake and just beat my brother by a few yards.

"In an attempt to break the mile straightaway record, my dad built a Sea Sled. It was rectangular in shape and very small, light and tapered in a manner that when it began planing, only the very back of the boat would be in the water. He constructed the bottom of fibre-board, which was easily shaped. The day of the testing arrived and we were on the Hwy 99 side of the Salton Sea. The only steering mechanism was the shifting of one's weight from side to side. A couple of trial runs were satisfactory, so, with stop watch in hand, he tried it for fun. It was at the half mile post, nearly in front of us, that part of the bottom came off. A geyser erupted probably 30 feet in the air. The boat began sinking almost immediately, but fortunately in shallow water. Dad jumped in and held the motor up out of the water. When we waded out to help him, his stop watch was in his mouth!

"I recall two occasions of near tragedy on the Salton Sea. One Sunday two or three members of the Covington and Pearson families boarded the launch of Eddie Ruoff for a trip to Pelican Islands at the lower end of the sea. It was necessary to anchor the larger boat some distance from shore and commute in a small boat which was then towed behind. After visiting the sandy islands and observing the waterfowl, we started the return trip just about dark. Ray Covington and I had been riding on the prow of the boat when the wind suddenly came up. The sea became very rough and we joined the rest of the group underneath the canvas. Before we made it back, waves over 8 feet were crashing on us. It was a frightening experience.

"On another occasion, three hydroplanes left from the south side and were going to the salt works, which could be identified by poles and other landmarks. I was riding with my dad in his boat. On the return trip, again after dark, we had no lights but Curly Murphy had a spotlight on his boat. We were ahead of Murphy and about half way back when he increased his speed to take the lead. With his spotlight on us he ran over the back of Dad's boat, on an angle, and knocked the motor loose from the transom. Dad grabbed it and when Murphy circled back with the spotlight, we were able to reconnect the motor and it still ran. Our only guess was that he was holding elsewhere when he ran us down."

The temporary motor boat club which had been sponsoring Salton Sea events formed a permanent organization in 1929. The organizational meeting followed a dinner served at the Desert Tavern. Officers elected were C.O. Murphy, Commodore; A.L. Pearson, Vice Commodore; A.T. Sclater, Rear-Commodore; R.K. Widdecomb, Sec. Treas.; Board of Directors, C.L. Covington, L.J. Yost, T.H. Rosenberger, H.P. Shumway and H.W. Postlethwaite. Initiation fee was fixed at $5 and dues at $6 per year.

At first the boating fraternity from elsewhere tried to get the Salton Sea disqualified as being unfair. To this, George Ames replied, "It's water, isn't it?" By the mid-thirties Kent Hitchcock from Balboa and others popularized it sufficiently to attract national attention and backing by the National Power Boat Association. Then the best boats and drivers in the country were lining up to participate.

The 1948 Regatta was sponsored by the newly organized Desert Beach Yacht Club. It was a massive undertaking for a small club, and the files turned over to the CV Historical Society tell a remarkable story of a club with dues of $10, per year and fifty members putting on an event of national importance. M-G-M newsreel and Life Magazine and scores of other magazines and papers sent reporters. The files reveal letters to Paramount Pictures and Warner Brothers requesting the presence of their film crews, starlets, or whatever assistance they could render to lend glamour to the events. Instead of money, the prizes were trophies, and local businesses and organizations provided them. The Official Program for the 1948 Regatta, October 15-18, 1948 noted that Event 30, scheduled for 3:30 PM on October 17th, was "The Gold Cup Class." It went on to say, "Gold Cup Record: Guy Lombardo. Speed: 118.229 mph for one mile on the Salton Sea. These boats are among the fastest in the world. They are up to forty feet in length, weigh up to 2 1/2 tons, and are powered by motors developing as high as 1500 horsepower. They are temperamental, dangerous and spectacular. It is not uncommon for boats of this class to clear the water for distances of sixty to eighty feet. On these occasions, only the perfect balance and ballast of the craft, together with the driver's skill will keep them from capsizing ... Trophies by Glenn Gurley Buick, Indio."

The trophies were called "cheap" by some of the winners. "Neither the businesses, nor the yacht club members were to blame", stated letters of apology to winners, written by Kay Olesen. He went on to explain that this was the first year the Desert Beach Yacht Club had been in charge, and they simply didn't know what was expected. A telegram saved in the yacht club files, dated October 4, 1949 reads,

"K OLESON=IMPERIAL MOTORS=INDIO CALIF= SENDING LARGE CUP EXPRESS TOO LARGE FOR GREYHOUND ... ED BATHKE"

Apparently the 1949 trophies were of adequate size!

A local newspaper reported just before the highly successful 1949 Speed Boat Regatta, "The unlimited world speedboat record tottered precariously today with the disclosure that a flock of the nation's 'hottest' Gold Cuppers were committed to the ninth annual Salton Sea Regatta October 7,8,9, and 10 at Desert Beach. Heading the announcement made at a meeting of the Desert Beach Yacht Club last night at the Indio Hotel was the news that Henry J. Kaiser, Jr. had given his assurance that his famed industrialist father would enter two great boats--'Hot Metal' and 'Aluminum I'.

"Both of the craft are radical in design. Powered by Allison airplane engines, skilled engineers have made corrections that they hope will blast away the present world standards on the course 33 miles away from the Kaiser iron mine at Eagle Mountain. 'Aluminum' is now in Detroit, while the other craft is up at Oakland.

"The American Power Boat Association has assured the club that automobile magnate Horace Dodge of Detroit will also have a topnotch entry in the regatta. The Dodge colors will be flown by either 'My Sweetie' or 'Delphine X'. These boats each pack two 710 horsepower Allison engines. 'My Sweetie' won both the Gold Cup and National Sweepstakes this year at Detroit and carries its propeller midships.

"'Skip-a-long', already entered by Stanley Dollar of the Dollar Steamship Lines of San Francisco, will not appear at the regatta. The club was informed that the boat, winner of the Hamsworth trophy at Detroit, is now at the bottom of Lake Tahoe.

"Another Lake Tahoe casualty was 'Hurricane IV,' prospective entry of Morlan Visel, multimillionaire Los Angeles attorney. It had broken many Gold Cup records. However, Visel flew down to Desert Beach in his private airplane Tuesday and said he would bring three of the new 48 cubic inch class which will run the first national championships here in competition with twelve other boats from Texas.

"'Such Crust I' entered by Jack Schafer of Detroit holds the All-American class record of 126 MPH set at Gull Lake, Florida. Its drivers will be two brothers --Gene and Dan Arena. The Schafer entry was edged out by "Skip-a-long" for the Hamsworth Trophy this year. The American Power Boat Association has warned the Yacht Club that it must be prepared to handle 300 entries for the four-day regatta."

Coachella Valley's own Dr. Louis Novotny was always a popular competitor and in the 1950 regatta he drove his Pacific One Design hydroplane "Cherub II" to a new five-mile competitive mark, 54.545 mph.

The 1950 Salton Sea Regatta was sponsored by the Southern California Speedboat Club, The Los Angeles Speedboat Association, and Roy Hunter, of Desert Beach. The program states "the Regatta this year is being conducted on an emergency basis. When it appeared that cancellation of this year was certain, last minute arrangements were made to get the races on the water. The courses at Desert Beach are famed ... More records have been established here than at any other course in the world in the history of boat racing."

The 1951 Regatta, again held at Desert Beach, called "The South Seas of the Desert" on their letterhead, resulted in 21 World Records Subsequent boat races were held at other beaches, and ultimately on the west side of sea at places like Helen Bums' Salton Sea Beach. It was not all serious, either. The Daily Enterprise of January 5, 1970 had headlines proclaiming, "Salton Sea's bathtub race turns out to be a runaway." A bathtub race it was-and according to Bill Bryan of the sponsoring Indio Jaycees, "we want to keep it loose so people can have fun." The exact number of official entries could not be determined, but the obvious winner, Danny Wegar skimmed the 25 miles to the east shore and back in one hour and four minutes. For his pains, he received a gold-plated plumber's friend and one-fourth of all entry fees. The second and third place finishers didn't come in until nearly two and one half hours later. Thirty entrants had been expected, but only nine tubs actually started. Technical difficulties plus second thoughts about actually taking a bathtub out on Salton Sea apparently took their pre-race toll!

 

"Hurricane IV" was always a popular entrant.

Swimming and boating attracted crowds from all over Southern California and was popular with locals as well. Pictured is Coachella Valley High School coed Peggy Rue Julian with the ship's wheel which became a focal point in "The Wheel House".

Chapter 11

FISHING THE SALTON SEA

The fishermen who first used the earlier manifestations of the Salton Sea were the Indians. Each time the Colorado River turned the Salton Sink into a freshwater lake, the fish swept along with the flood waters prospered for a time and were a food source for the native people of the area.

Indian legends and oral history tell of fishing on the shores of a great body of water that "little by little" went away.

At the west end of Avenue 66, near the Valerie Jean corner, there are unusual circular formations of rocks 50 to 100 feet up the rocky slopes below the travertine covered rocks that mark the old beachline. There are actually several levels of these so-called "fish traps", indicating that there may have been tides which regularly raised and lowered the level of the sea and made the traps effective fishing nets. This theory is disputed by those who believe that the circles are simply the foundations of homes. The tide theory causes one to have to believe that the rock circles were built at a much earlier time, when the sea was really the upper end of the Gulf of California, subject to ocean tides. Current wisdom holds that they are definitely man-made structures and probably were fish traps, flooded in an unknown manner.

The fish the Indians caught were probably those carried in by the Colorado River. Even today, salty as the sea is, there are a few carp, blue gill and catfish found in Salton Sea around the freshwater inlets such as the Whitewater drain and the Alamo and New Rivers.

Mullet from the Gulf of California used to migrate up the Colorado River. When Imperial Dam was constructed the mullet's path was blocked and most mullet died out. The commercial mullet fishery petered out in 1953.

The State Department of Fish and Game recognized the recreational opportunity offered by this vast inland sea and as early as 1929 introduced striped bass from the San Joaquin River and in 1930, from San Francisco Bay. None were ever recovered. Pile worms and mudsuckers from San Diego Bay were introduced to provide food for the bass. Even though the bass didn't make it, the pile worms and mudsuckers did and they proved in-valuable as the effort continued to find a game fish for the sea. It has been suggested that the pile worm is the basis on which the whole food chain is built and without it, the chain would collapse.

In 1934, 15,000 silver salmon fingerlings were stocked in Salton Sea, and they all disappeared.

A major effort to establish a sport fishery began in 1948. Freshwater Fisheries Biologists Willis Evans and Phil Douglas and Marine Biologist John Fitch led the program. In 1950 they decided that introducing one species at a time was too time-consuming. They moved to plant every popular species that they could net out of the Gulf of California. The fish were transported by tank truck to the Salton Sea.

Gulf croaker, orange-mouth corvina and gulf-fin corvina were successfully transplanted and they proceeded to multiply. The small gulf croaker became an excellent food for the corvina. Less successful were halibut, perch, smelt, anchovies, sardines, tortuava, squid, clams, mussels and two kinds of oysters.

By the end of 1951, 34,000 fish of 35 different saltwater species, had been transported from the Gulf of California and planted in the Salton Sea. This was the year that sargo were first successfully transplanted into the sea, and sargo became the second saltwater game fish to thrive in the sea.

A UCLA research group came into the picture in 1954. The Department of Fish and Game could only determine that corvina and gulf croaker had survived and they needed help. Dr. Boyd Walker, Dr. Lars Carpalon, and Dr. Richard Whitney, and Biologist Richard Linsley went to work on the project. A total of 2,289 corvina were transplanted into the sea. By March of 1957, the researchers were netting 2 inch and 3 inch baby corvina, obviously hatched in the Salton Sea. A baby sargo was netted in a beach seine in the fall of 1957 and the biologists were greatly encouraged. By October, large numbers of corvina, weighing 1 1/2 pounds each were showing up in research nets and the Salton Sea population was estimated at 1,000,000 fish.

Now the problem was how to catch them. Enthusiastic anglers found that a wobbling spoon tossed into the shallow waters around Bombay Beach and the mouth of Salt Creek produced catches averaging about 10 pounds per fish. Live mudsuckers worked well in deeper waters in midsummer.

In September 1958 an employee at the US Salton Sea Base took the first known catch of sargo with fish up to 12 inches in length.

A recurring problem at Salton Sea is the summer phenomenon of decaying organic material at the bottom of the sea creating a "green tide" situation. Resulting oxygen depletion kills the gulf croaker and other fish as well, and their bodies line the beaches.

An on-going fisheries management program has made Salton Sea one of the best and liveliest fishing areas on the West Coast. The largest corvina caught by 1972 was 32.6 pounds. Many 20 pound fish are caught. There is no closed season so corvina are caught every day of the year. The best fishing is from boats, but a wind warning is given. Winds come up quickly and unexpectedly on this vast but shallow inland sea. Even experienced locals have lost their lives in a sudden storm.

Chapter 12

WHERE BARNACLES GROW ON THE SAGE

John Hilton, writing for The Desert Magazine in the early 1940s, remarks on the paradoxes that are the Salton Sea. It is a sea below sea-level. On its shores you can collect wood that sinks and rocks that float. At its southern end are geysers of hot mud near gas wells that are used to produce one of the coldest substances on earth--dry ice. Now add barnacles on the sage and salt bush that line its shores. Where in the world did barnacles come from?

Hilton recounts some of the strange sights which World War II brought to the Coachella Valley, not the least of which was the appearance of a large boat making its way slowly down what was then called Highway 99, at the Valerie Jean corner. His own art studio and shop were directly across the street. The boat was being drawn by a giant truck, which was heating up and the driver stopped in the parking lot to let it cool off. Hilton asked the driver why in the world he was pulling a boat across the desert in the middle of summer, and the answer was, "I'm taking it to the Navy base."

That still puzzled Hilton, thinking he meant the base in San Diego. In complete disgust the driver explained, "Ain't you heard of a naval base right here on the desert? And don't go asking me why. I'm a peacable man but I've answered more fool questions since daylight than I've heard in 12 years in the heavy trucking business."

There had been vague rumors that the navy was using the Salton Sea for certain training and there were even occasional flying boats circling the valley, but most residents thought the mention of a naval base on the Salton Sea was a gag to be classed along with the report of a German sub in Lake Mead, back of Boulder Dam.

It soon became apparent that the Navy was definitely moving in. Other boats trundled past Mr. Hilton's studio and more and more Navy planes flew over the valley. The Eilers family at Date Palm Beach were surprised one day to have a big P.B.Y. circle, land and taxi to the end of their pier. In a short time, this was also considered a "Navy Base." When a plane seemed to be heading their way, Mrs. Eilers and her daughter, June, would put a coffee cake in the oven and brew a pot of coffee and by the time the flying boat was anchored, the refreshments were ready for the crew. Flying boats came and went, and small craft towing targets could be seen out to sea. Navy officers lounged in the small dining room. One valley rancher who came down for a swim remarked, "Anything can happen now. It wouldn't surprise me if barnacles started growing on the sagebrush." And that is just what happened! Actually, pieces of brush, washed out to sea became home to the tiny barnacles, and shrubs at the water-line offered a place for the barnacles to attach themselves and go through a sort of metamorphosis. Once attached, they stay there for life.

There were two theories as to how the barnacles got there. Some held that they came in on the boats or bouys that were hauled over from the coast. Others blamed the seaplanes. One young flyer told Mr. Hilton that it was not uncommon for the R.B.Y. boats to pump their bilges in the Salton Sea. The water might have come from any point in the ocean from San Diego Bay to the South Seas. The barnacle larvae might have survived between the fibers of a wet coil of heavy rope hastily brought from San Diego. However they came-they stayed and they thrived. Today barnacles line the beaches, cover rocks and pilings and generally make recreational use of the sea more difficult.

Where was this not-to-be-believed naval base in the desert? Little was written about it in World War II era newspapers, probably for security reasons. The naval base itself was located on the southwest shore of Salton Sea, four miles east of the present Highway 86. It was in the Salton Sea Wildlife Refuge at a point previously designated as Sandy Beach. It covered an area of 81 square miles, two-thirds of which was over water. The nearest town was Westmoreland, 27 miles away. Indio was 47 miles to the north.

An area just east of the headquarters buildings is reported to be the location where the movie "Wake Island" was filmed. Buildings and a landing strip constructed for the film were used for several years afterward. The base was headquarters for a torpedo and skip bombing range. Local residents remember finding scrap lumber washed up on beaches on the east side of the sea, probably from targets and other construction projects at the base.

In September, 1946, the base was taken over by the Sandia Corporation, and operated for the Atomic Energy Commission. The Salton Sea Base, as it was called, was used primarily as a bombing range for non-explosive ballistic tests. Ground instrumentation determined time of fall of the bomb, its trajectory, and its impact point. It also provided for telemetering of bomb performance, filming of impact and in-flight motion pictures, and the collection of meteorological data needed to analyze and interpret test results.

When World War II came to a close in August of 1945, development and production of rockets was a massive enterprise in the US and Great Britain, but the Allies had nothing even approaching the technology already in use in Germany. Recognition of the potential of rocket power by the Allied powers came too late in the war to catch up with German developments. Technical intelligence teams followed close behind front line troops as they moved across Germany. One of the prime target of the Allies was Peenemunde, on the Baltic Sea. There the top planning and technical staff was headed by Major General Walter Dornberger and Wernher von Braun, who fled south in the last few days of the war in order to surrender to US troops. Thus the priceless experience of the German rocket effort became available to the Allies. According to Mr. Stuart Ward, a valley resident who lived and worked at Salton Sea Base, the optical equipment used at Salton Sea Base was some of that captured from the Germans-- extremely accurate Askania cameras--and also high speed 35 mm Mitchells. These and other special purpose cameras enabled the ground observers to record events of a very fast action and short time duration, too fast for the human eye. Planes from the Air Force Special Weapons Center and the Naval Air Special Weapons Facility performed the drops. A variety of instruments were used to receive coded information transmitted by automatic electronic devices installed within a falling device. When this data was decoded and coordinated, it was possible to develop a complete report on behavior of equipment within the bomb as well as certain physical phenomena. Instrument stations were located on the land area and a target was installed approximately 7000 feet offshore. Technical facilities were operated by Sandia Corporation of Albuquerque, New Mexico. It was reported that space capsule parachutes, drone airplanes, and Nike missles were tested at Salton Sea Base. Some of the activities are still on the classified list.

Location Map of the Salton Sea

Filming at the Salton Sea

A small city was built for the 100 regular employees who manned the facility when it opened in 1946. One-third were directly concerned with technical activities and the remaining two-thirds provided the necessary services and administrative assistance. San Felipe Lodge and small homes and apartments provided housing for personnel, and there was bus service to Indio, Brawley, Westmorland and El Centro. Children of employees were transported by bus to schools in Westmoreland and Brawley. Residents enjoyed a variety of recreational facilities including a swimming pool, tennis courts, a ball park, billiard room, fishing and various crafts and hobbies. The base had its own fire department and a tight security system.

Salton Sea Base suffered from the rise of the Salton Sea in the 1950s. They constructed a dike 3,400 feet long, at a cost of about $400,000, to protect the buildings and facilities. The dike was built in a horseshoe shape around the headquarters buildings, with the open side being the higher ground to the West. It rested on an impervious clay formation 16 feet below the water level, and rose 12 feet above the surface, at a time when the surface of the sea was 236 feet below sea level. The embankment, faced with soil-cement, was expected to protect the facility for at least 10 years. But the sea did continue to rise, and today, in 1995, only vandalized buildings remain to remind us of the Salton Sea's part in developing the rocket technology which made our space program possible, and many of the spin-off benefits we enjoy in everyday life.

Test Base at the Salton Sea

 

PART III WHAT ABOUT THE FUTURE?

Chapter 13

RESTORING THE SALTON SEA

Stories of a polluted Salton Sea are greatly exaggerated. Responsible sources have verified the fact that the sea is safe, with work still to be done to discover the cause of some unexplained bird deaths. The real problem is too much salt-carried in by irrigation water, and concentrated by the natural process of evaporation. Salinity has gone from 38,000 parts per million in 1965 to 45,000 ppm in 1993-perilous for fish reproduction. The Coachella and Imperial Valleys produce a large percentage of the fresh fruits and vegetables of the US, and farming would not be possible without a place to run-off the irrigation water used to carry away the excessive salts in the soils. It also is the basin which receives flood waters originating in the mountains that surround the valley, and from storms in the valley itself, but the sea would dry up if it were not replenished by irrigation water. Over the past 40 years many groups have suggested possible solutions. Several feasible plans have been developed, at considerable expense, but for lack of funds, none were ever implemented.

In the 1960s, an advisory committee chaired by the president of the Coachella Valley Water District produced a publication named the Salton Sea Project Federal-State Feasibility Report. The plan suggested then was to drain off portions of the sea--essentially construct in-sea impoundments of salt water, and make changes in the local drain water distribution to dilute and preserve as much of the remainder of the sea as possible. Had it been implemented in 1960, the cost would have been $58 million. Another possibility was to construct a navigable canal from the Gulf of California to the sea. This plan would necessitate the approval of the Mexican government.

In the early 1980s a plan was proposed which would modify the in-sea impoundment to use the ponds of condensed brine to entrap solar heat which would be released to drive turbines to produce electricity. In 1986 a Salton Sea Task Force, composed of 16 representatives from federal, state, county and local agencies, and appointed by the California Resources Agency, came up with similar solutions, but no funding, and the Task Force was disbanded in 1993.

In 1993 a Salton Sea Joint Powers Authority--with the ability to tax and to spend funds--was established. The board includes two directors each from the Coachella Valley Water District, the Imperial Irrigation District, and the counties of Riverside and Imperial. This is a very necessary first step. Most money must come from federal and state governments since the local tax bases cannot support such a massive project. It is thought likely that one of the previously identified solutions will probably be adopted. They range in cost now from less than 100 million to more than a billion dollars.

The Salton Sea has a fascinating history--and its best years can be those ahead. The good news is that restoring the sea is possible--it just takes money--and the will of the people to reclaim a beautiful natural resource for present and future generations to enjoy. 

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