Improving Conditions at California’s Salton Sea

Under the direction of Governor Gavin Newsom, California state agencies are advancing projects at the Salton Sea to improve air quality and provide critical environmental habitat for birds along the Pacific flyway.

Flows into the Salton Sea have declined in recent years, and the result is a shrinking, increasingly saline lake. As the Sea recedes, previously submerged lakebed is being exposed, creating dust that can be hazardous as it dries and becomes airborne.

The California Natural Resources Agency, the California Department of Water Resources and the California Department of Fish and Wildlife are focused on implementing the Salton Sea Management Program, which includes a 10-year plan that aims to improve conditions by constructing 30,000 acres of habitat and dust suppression projects around the Sea.

Since early 2019, the State Team has significantly improved its capacity to deliver projects at the Sea. Informed by constructive input from community members, local leaders and interested groups, the team is working with partners to make substantial progress on the ground in 2020 to improve conditions for communities near the Sea. The state team also is working to improve transparency, engage community members in project planning and design, and incorporate local input in the SSMP project planning process.

News

DWR Selects Design-Build Contractor for SCH Project

Salton Sea Management Program Update – August 5, 2020

Also: Updated Dust Suppression Action Plan Released; Projects to Get Underway Later this Summer

The Department of Water Resources has completed the evaluation of proposals for the Species Conservation Habitat (SCH) project and Kiewit Infrastructure West Co. has been selected as the best-value design-build entity. Kiewit Infrastructure West Co. and DWR are in the process of finalizing the contract.

Design and construction of the SCH Project is expected to begin in Fall 2020.
“Kiewit is proud to be selected as the contractor for the Salton Sea project,” said Jamie Wisenbaker, Senior Vice President for Kiewit Infrastructure West Co. “This critical project will improve the Salton Sea environment for wildlife, the residents of the area and the State of California.”

Located at the southern end of the sea along both sides of the New River, the 3,770-acre SCH project is aimed at creating habitat and suppressing dust to prevent further degradation of air quality.

The SCH anchors phase one of the SSMP, which focuses on constructing wetlands and other projects to reduce exposed lakebed and health hazards posed by airborne dust from exposed lakebed.

Updated Dust Suppression Action Plan Released; Projects to Get Underway Later this Summer

Cover of DSAPThe Salton Sea Management Program (SSMP) team has issued an updated Dust Suppression Action Plan to guide expedited implementation of dust suppression and associated habitat projects around the sea.

The proposed projects are intended to meet the goals of the SSMP and specific annual acreage targets outlined in State Water Resources Control Board Order WR 2017-0134.

The DSAP is a flexible working plan that outlines the actions the SSMP proposes to take to develop and implement dust suppression projects across nine project areas around the perimeter of the Salton Sea, to be constructed between 2020 and 2022. These projects will improve public health and respond to the COVID-19 emergency by improving air quality in the region.

The DSAP identifies and prioritizes a planning area of approximately 9,800 acres based on the best available scientific data, proximity to populated areas, ease of securing landowner access and environmental permitting, sites with potential availability of short- and long-term water supplies, and information obtained through public input.

The SSMP team held public meetings in February and March in Westmorland, Bombay Beach and Torres Martinez Reservation to gather community input on the initial draft DSAP. Public meetings held in December 2019 in Mecca and Salton City also provided input on how dust affects local residents and the potential locations and methods for dust suppression projects. The community meetings were held in some of the communities closest to the project areas identified in the draft DSAP and resulted in additional feedback for the SSMP planning team. Written comments from the public were accepted through March 27.

The SSMP team also completed tribal consultation on an administrative draft plan on July 24.

The plan outlines the steps needed to transition from concept to on-the-ground implementation starting in 2020. Some projects are proposed to be located on federal lands, and additional tribal consultation is expected to occur at the project level for those locations through the National Environmental Policy Act compliance process.

The first project sites are located within the footprint of the Species Conservation Habitat project. The SSMP is proactively implementing temporary dust control measures at this site prior to the start of construction of the habitat ponds due to the potential for emissivity within portions of the project area. This project is proposed to cover up to 1,900 acres and is planned to start upon final regulatory approval.

The updated plan will serve as a “living document” that will be refined over time through monitoring and adaptative management, as well as continued engagement with the community.

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Message from Wade Crowfoot, Secretary, Natural Resources Agency

The California Natural Resources Agency is committed to improving conditions for the people who live near the Salton Sea. We are working with our federal, state and local partners to accelerate progress on the Salton Sea Management Program’s 10-year plan. We support a transparent process with clearly defined goals and measurable objectives aligned with available fiscal and hydrological resources. Progress made by the program is overseen by the State Water Resources Control Board and the California Air Resources Board.

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