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Salton Sea Won't Be Diluted By Colorado

River Water Valuable; Solar Ponds An Option

The San Diego Union Tribune, August 2, 2000

RIVERSIDE -- Associated Press-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, announced yesterday that the restoration report will be expanded to see whether solar ponds are a viable option for desalting the sea.

The sea was created in 1905 when the Colorado River blew through a dike as farmers sought to divert water to the Imperial Valley.

Now, fed only by irrigation runoff and sewage, it is 25 percent saltier than the ocean.

Using Colorado River water to dilute the sea has been dropped from the draft restoration report, authority spokesman Tom Kirk confirmed.

The 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.

The Interior Department and the Salton Sea Authority have set a Jan. 1 deadline to come up with a restoration plan.

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

The authority plans to hire a contractor to build two ponds near Niland to test the solar-pond theory.

Such ponds, used for decades for salt harvesting, allow salt to become so concentrated that it turns into chunks that can be discarded.