FINDING OPPORTUNITY IN AN EMERGING THREAT
The Salton Sea is the largest inland lake in California, totaling more than 375 square miles in Imperial and Riverside counties. For a century, the Sea has been sustained predominantly by agricultural runoff from the farms and fields of the Imperial Valley, a top food and fiber producer for the state and nation. The Sea supports a diverse wildlife habitat for over 400 species of birds and serves as a critical link on the 5,000-mile international Pacific Flyway for bird migration.
Today, the Sea faces a crisis. In recent years, it has developed increasing salinity and other water quality problems that have made it inhospitable to wildlife, recreation and other human uses. It also has begun to recede, impacting air quality for local communities and crops as thousands of acres of contaminated lakebed becomes exposed allowing silt and fine particles to become airborne. Together, these water and air quality issues present imminent public health and environmental risks that must be addressed.
A shrinking Sea presents an opportunity to tap into the diverse renewable energy sources located there to provide clean, affordable and reliable power to state energy consumers. At the same time, siting new energy projects on exposed lakebed will:
- Mitigate dust and other environmental impacts
- Fund wildlife habitat and air quality management projects
- Spur local economic development and job creation
A new vision has emerged for a smaller but sustainable Salton Sea that enables restoration while harnessing its vast renewable energy potential.