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Support for the Salton Sea

April 20, 2002

"Salton Sea Sticking Point in Water Deal" (April 14) says that the Salton Sea "is a place that was never supposed to be." The Salton Sea is only the most recent of a series of much larger lakes that have filled the basin--collectively called prehistoric Lake Cahuilla. Carbon dates of travertine deposits and lake-related archeological remains indicate that the sea was full more than half of the time over the past 1,300 years.

Your article says the sea is polluted with "agricultural pesticides and Mexican sewage." Studies of water and sediments found only trace amounts of pesticides and other pollutants in the sea. Fecal coliform bacteria levels from sewage were well below EPA health thresholds. You say that restoration plans "will only delay the sea's demise from extreme salinity." Solar evaporation ponds, in conjunction with on-sea desalination, provide proven solutions to rising salinity. For as little as $300 million ($6 per household in Southern California), solar ponds can remove the salts from the sea.

If water transfers go forward, salinity will skyrocket. The fishery will collapse, and 200 million dead fish will then represent a real odor problem. Millions of migratory birds will lose one of their last critical stopovers on their already imperiled journeys. Lowering of the sea will expose more than 100 miles of fine lake-bottom sediments, representing a huge impact on already poor air quality in the Imperial and Coachella valleys.

It is L.A.'s and San Diego's wasteful water use that is the real problem.

Tim Krantz

Program Director

Salton Sea Database Program

University of Redlands

*

This article failed to mention that on March 28 the Salton Sea Authority and the Imperial Irrigation District voted unanimously to support a resolution opposing water transfers of any amount from the Salton Sea that would pose significant negative impacts on wildlife or expose enough shoreline to create a human health hazard by airborne dust. This critical move was approved the previous month by Riverside County, local Indian tribes, Palm Springs and other municipalities.

However, even more upsetting was your morose and inaccurate portrayal of the surreally beautiful Salton Sea. The color of water is not evidence of pollution. By the time the waters of the New River and other tributaries travel across miles of desert to reach the Salton Sea, no significant levels of contaminants have been found in regular state monitoring. In fact, lifeguards at the Salton Sea State Recreation Area are not even required to be inoculated, though their counterparts along the polluted Pacific shoreline certainly need to be.

Virginia Haddad

Midway City

*

I can't help but wonder why seawater is not part of the environmental solution to this ever-increasing problem of salt and pollutant buildup in the Salton Sea. As the Salton Sea is below sea level, no energy would be required to pump seawater into the sea and, indeed, some electricity could be generated that could be used to pump high-salt brine and agricultural waste-water rich in pesticides and herbicides seaward. The use of seawater could regulate the shoreline, allowing for development of this area, improve water quality and end the fight over the ever-diminishing fresh-water resource.

Tim Beck

Board Secretary, Heal

the Harbor, Torrance

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