SSMP e-Newsletter – August 2023

Tropical Storm Hilary Leaves Minimal Impacts on Salton Sea Restoration Projects

As communities continue to recover from the impacts of Tropical Storm Hilary, active restoration projects around the Salton Sea report minimal construction damage in the wake of the storm.

Species Conservation Habitat Project Accommodates Flood Flows

The Species Conservation Habitat Project (SCH), located at the southern end of the Salton Sea, saw an increase in flows from the New River as a result of the storm. The increase amounted to twice the typical inflow during the active storm period.

 The New River Diversion Structure is a major component of the overall SCH Project. It is also a flood control structure that will allow for water to go through without compromising the integrity of the project.

The New River Diversion Structure was able to adequately capture and retain water as planned. However, the floodgates were opened out of an abundance of caution even though rain levels and New River inflows were below the forecasted levels.

Flood gates at the New River Diversion Structure were opened to allow water to continue its way into the Sea.

After opening the floodgates, water continued its way and streamed through the New River until reaching the Salton Sea. The SCH was designed and built to undertake a 100-year flood event protecting the overall integrity of the project and helping protect adjacent land properties from flooding.

Water overtopped the interception ditch going into the flood buffer zone, causing some sediment to be deposited or removed from the berm.

With the substantial amount of water that came in, the interception ditch, another component of the SCH project, did overtop into the flood buffer zone. The interception ditch is designed to do that, by letting the water flow by gravity into the flood buffer zone. As a result of the overtopping, some erosion did occur in the berm situated between the interception ditch and the flood buffer zone.

Vegetation Enhancement Projects Report No Significant Damage

Some grass bales were moved around the sites in areas with high water flows where water collected formed streams.

Although Tropical Storm Hilary brought in a significant amount of water into the Sea’s shoreline, the Vegetation Enhancement Project sites report no significant damage within the project areas. Storm runoff eroded soil and created waterways known as ephemeral streams. Now that these streams have emerged, the SSMP team can plan to capture, divert, and spread stormwater in a more controlled manner in the future. In addition, these storm events allow the SSMP to better determine and identify the best areas to place the grass bales. Displaced bales will not be returned to their original placement.

This picture at Clubhouse site near Salton City shows how stormwater spread through the site. Existing and new vegetation will benefit from the recent rains.

In fact, the substantial amount of water that moved through the project areas is significantly beneficial for natural plant recruitment and supports existing younger plants across all vegetation enhancement sites.

Events like Tropical Storm Hilary give the SSMP an opportunity to see if projects are operating as designed and how to adaptively manage each project’s maintenance and reinforce any specific areas.


Desert Pupfish, the Only Fish Endemic to the Salton Sea

The SSMP is advancing projects at the Salton Sea to protect air quality and provide critical environmental habitat for birds along the Pacific Flyway. The 4,100-acre SCH project, located at the southern end of the Sea, will provide important fish and bird habitat, especially for the desert pupfish (Cyprinodon macularius) that enter the Sea through the irrigation drains.

In a recent interview with SSMP’s Environmental Scientists and Biologists, we captured important information to share with you about the importance of this particular and iconic character in the Salton Sea’s ecosystem.

Members of the California Department of Fish and Wildlife provided the following interview:

Hi Charley, Sharon, and Brett, can you share with us some relevant details about the Desert Pupfish at the Sea?

The desert pupfish is the only fish endemic to the Salton sink and was listed as a California endangered species in 1980. It is a small, robust fish, usually less than three inches in length. The lifespan is typically one year but can be as long as three years or as short as six weeks. The desert pupfish tolerates an extreme range of environmental conditions such as: salinity levels ranging from fresh water up to almost double ocean water salinity (about 35 ppt); water temperatures as high as 108° F and as low as 40° F; and low oxygen levels.

Also, important to mention is that the desert pupfish may protect itself from threats and stressors is by diving down into the substrate.

Why is the desert pupfish found here?

Currently, natural populations of desert pupfish likely still occur in the Salton Sea immediately adjacent to irrigation drain and creek outflows, nearby shoreline pools, freshwater ponds and irrigation drains, as well as in portions of creeks/washes that are tributary to the Salton Sea. Desert pupfish historically occupied a variety of habitats ranging from springs and cienegas to margins or backwaters of large water bodies. Desert pupfish typically prefer clear waters having little to no velocity, sand-silt substrate, and moderate to abundant aquatic vegetation. These characteristics make the Salton Sink Basin of California, the Colorado River Delta, and Laguna Salada Basin in Mexico an adequate habitat areas for the desert pupfish to thrive.

What do they eat?

Desert pupfish are opportunistic omnivores, consuming algae, pieces of macrophytes, detritus, aquatic insects and larvae, aquatic crustaceans, snails, and occasionally their own eggs and young.  They engage in pit digging, where the fish will excavate and defend an area of soft substrate while searching for food. Also worth mentioning that a study conducted in 1975 found that desert pupfish significantly reduced mosquito larvae, and therefore may be an ideal species to replace the non-native mosquitofish (Gambusia affinis) in controlling mosquito populations in the Salton Basin.

Why is the desert pupfish important to the Salton Sea’s ecosystem?

The desert pupfish is also a source of food for numerous native and non-native species in the Salton Basin, including various bird species such as black skimmer (Rynchops niger), mammals such as raccoons (Procyon lotor) and coyote (Canis latrans), aquatic beetles, non-native fishes and other non-native fauna such as red swamp crayfish (Procambarus clarkii), spiny softshell turtle (Apalone spinifera), and bullfrog (Lithobates catesbeianus). 

How is the SSMP helping protect and enhance habitat for the desert pupfish at the Sea?

The Salton Sea Management Program is currently working to monitor and conserve the endangered desert pupfish habitat around the Salton Sea. The SCH project, although not fully completed and as work continues, endangered desert pupfish and a broad range of bird species already are actively using the new habitat created with completion of the interception ditch and other major important project milestones.


State Water Board launches Spanish webpage for Salton Sea

To continue supporting and addressing the need for translated information, the State Water Resources Control Board has created a Spanish webpage dedicated for the Salton Sea Management Program. This page mirrors the English version of this website, which includes direct links to the SSMP website and the Colorado River Regional Water Quality Control Board webpage, meeting announcements, past recordings, and other relevant documents. Presentations from the 2023 Water Board Salton Sea Workshop are also found in both English and Spanish.

Click here to visit the Spanish website.


Upcoming SSMP Engagement Opportunities

SSMP Community Engagement Committee to Meet on September 14

The SSMP Community Engagement Committee will meet at 2 p.m. September 14 for a virtual meeting on Zoom. Spanish Interpretation will be available. Habrá interpretación en español.

Join us for a quick overview of the Community Needs Strategy document. Additionally, we will workshop the Outreach Plan and Engagement Schedule ahead of the 60-day public comment period.

SSMP Community Engagement Committee Meeting

Please click the link below to join the webinar:

Or dial: +1669-900-6833

Webinar ID: 820 6991 4652


California Biodiversity Day 2023

California Biodiversity Day takes place on September 7th of each year, marking the anniversary of the launch of the California Biodiversity Initiative in 2018. This annual event celebrates our state’s exceptional biodiversity, while also encouraging actions to protect it.

Come celebrate California’s biodiversity this year during the week of September 2nd – 10th!

Click here for more information and events. Please use the hashtag #CABiodiversity to share your biodiversity day adventures.

Follow us on Social

@CalNatResourcesJoin “Charging Ahead Toward a 100% Clean Energy Future” on 9.6 w/ Secty. @WadeCrowfoot; hear from #energy experts to discuss strides CA has made, hurdles we face, and the path to maintain reliable and affordable energy to power communities. Register now ➡