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Note: The following document is Appendix B in the report titled Saving the Salton Sea: A Research Needs Assessment

Deterioration of the Salton SEA
(10 Year Chronology of Events and Actions Taken)

1987 - Early documentation of avian deaths in the Salton Sea. Staff of the Salton Sea National Wildlife Refuge manage the incidents in cooperation with California Department of Fish and Game (CDF&G) employees.

* The National Wildlife Health Center diagnoses the causes of the avian deaths.

1988 - The Salton Sea Task Force is initiated with the encouragement and sponsorship of the California Department of Fish and Game in response to concern over the decline of the fishery resource. The task force members included all Salton Sea stakeholders and was successful in focusing attention on the problems of the sea.

1989 - 1991 - Sporadic avian deaths continue to be documented in the Salton Sea. Staff of the Salton Sea National Wildlife Refuge manage the incidents in cooperation with CDF&G employees.

1992 - 150,000 eared grebes and ruddy ducks are found dead on the Salton Sea. National media attention is focused on the die-off. Fish and wildlife Service (Service) personnel managed the dilemma. The majority of the grebe mortality is undetermined avian cholera accounted for a portion of the mortality.

(October) The United states Congress, through Public Law 102-575, Title XI, Section 1101, authorizes 10 million dollars to the Secretary of Interior for the Bureau of Reclamation (BOR) to conduct a research project for the development of a method or combination of methods to reduce and control salinity, provide endangered species habitat, enhance fisheries, and protect human recreational values in inland water bodies. The legislation further provides that such research shall include testing an enhanced evaporation system for treatment of saline waters, and studies regarding in-water segregation of saline waters and of dilution from other sources. The project shall be located in the area of the Salton Sea of southern California.

1993 - Riverside and Imperial Counties, California, the Imperial Irrigation district and the Coachella Valley Water district entered into a Joint Powers Agreement creating a public agency known as the Salton Sea Authority (Authority). The Authority was created to coordinate actions relating to improvement of water quality, stabilization of water elevation, enhancement of recreation and economic development potential of the Salton Sea and other beneficial uses. The Salton Sea Authority replaced the Salton Sea Task Force, formed in 1988.

1994 - The Authority received a grant from the US Environmental Protection Agency Clean Lakes Program (Grant) to conduct environmental and economic analyses of salinity and elevation options for the Salton Sea. The Authority begins work assessing the needs of the Salton Sea in relation to salinity and elevation.

* 2,500 dead birds, mostly eared grebes are removed and the total water bird die-off is estimated at 20,000; the cause of most of the mortality is from unknown causes although avian cholera accounted for some deaths. Service staff manage the dilemma.

1995 (December) Under the auspices of the Grant, the "Salton Sea Management Project Draft Evaluation of Salinity and Elevation Management Alternatives" (Management Alternatives) is completed and released for public review by the Salton Sea Authority.

1996 (April) Fish and Wildlife Service (Carlsbad Ecological Services Office) provides comments on the Management Alternatives. Several biological issues are identified and permitting guidance is presented in the Service response.

(August) An unprecedented Avian botulism episode occurs killing over 14,000 birds, including more than 1,400 endangered brown pelicans.

* Thousands of tilapia fish die. Potential causes are identified as Vibro infections and botulism.

* The National Wildlife Health Center identifies sick fish as being the source of botulism toxin affecting pelicans and other fish eating birds.

(September) Service coordinates a meeting with Salton Sea Stakeholders to discuss water quality and availability issues as well as biological concerns and bird mortalities.

* Congressmen George E. Brown and George Miller request the Service to keep them informed about how the Service will address the issue.

* The Service Pacific Region requests an emergency appropriation from the headquarters office to help pay for the resources needed to deal with the catastrophe.

(October) The Biological resources Division of the US. Geological Survey (BRD), with support of the Fish and Wildlife Service, brought together research scientists with appropriate scientific expertise to evaluate mortality events occurring at the Salton Sea and field managers who have responsibility for land and resources management. The main objective for the workshop participants was to develop an interagency ecosystem approach proposal to address fish and wildlife health issues on the Salton Sea. The product from the workgroup is entitled the Salton Sea Ecosystem Initiative.

(December) The Service coordinates a second stakeholders meeting to discuss the health of the Salton Sea ecosystem.

1997 - (February) The Service responds to Congressmen George Brown and George Miller's September 1996 request for information.

* The Service Deputy Pacific Regional director attends Salton Sea Authority Meeting to continue dialogue on a proposed diking solution to correct salinity and water elevations.

(April 15) An interagency team chaired by the Service meet to develop a process on how to adequately address the biological concerns associated with an engineering fix to the Salton Sea Ecosystem. The Service and BRD representatives are on the team.

(April 16) Team findings are presented to stakeholders at a meeting in Ontario, CA. The stakeholders support the findings of the team which include conducting a workshop with top level scientists to decide how to proceed with a natural resource impact analysis of any proposed engineering fixes to correct the deteriorating Salton Sea Ecosystem.

(April 23) Planning is initiated to conduct a Save the Salton Sea Needs Assessment Workshop. The "Salton Sea Ecosystem Initiative" is used as a guide for framing the purpose and goals of the workshop.

(May) First case of New Castles disease occurs in double crested cormorants west of the Rocky Mountains at the Salton Sea, killing over 90% of the juveniles in a single nesting colony.

* Over 2,400 grebes die of unknown causes, with signs similar to the 1992 and 1994 events.

* Thousands of tilapia fish die, presumably, from Vibrio infections.

(June) The Service assigns an employee to work full-time as the science coordinator for the Imperial and Coachella Valley California.

(July) Several media contacts occur between the service and area, regional and national reporters.

* The Service espouses primary roles in dealing with the Salton Sea.

1. Keeping the band-aids on the ecosystem while long-term solutions are being developed.

2. Coordinating research efforts to develop a GIS Salton sea ecosystem model and aiding in the development of long-term solutions.

3. Coordinate and as appropriate conduct long-term monitoring of any implemented engineering solutions to correct the deteriorating Salton Sea ecosystem.

* Partners from the Salton Sea area pool their resources and construct an on site wildlife field hospital.

(August 4-8) Salton Sea needs assessment workshop conducted in cooperation with the Fish and Wildlife Service, Bureau of Reclamation and California Department of Fish and Game to develop a process to address the natural and cultural resource issues, and research and investigation needs for any proposed engineering solutions to repair the Salton Sea Ecosystem. Representatives of 21 Federal, state and local agencies, universities and government offices participated.