California plans to stop shrinkage of its largest lake This May 1, 2015 aerial file photo shows the exposed lake bed of the Salton Sea evaporating near Niland, Calif. (AP Photo/Gregory Bull, File)
California plans to stop shrinkage of its largest lake
Lexile

California Gov. Jerry Brown's administration has proposed spending nearly $400 million over 10 years to slow the shrinking of the state's largest lake just as it is expected to evaporate at an accelerated pace.
 
The plan involves building ponds on the northern and southern ends of the Salton Sea. It is a salty, desert lake. It has suffered a string of environmental setbacks since the late 1970s. During its heyday of international speed boat races, it drew more visitors than Yosemite National Park.
 
The proposal comes at a critical time for the lake. It is about 150 miles southeast of Los Angeles. San Diego's regional water agency will soon stop sending water to help preserve the lake. San Diego agreed in 2003 to contribute water through 2017. It was a landmark deal to buy Colorado River water from the Imperial Valley. It includes the lake.
 
The $383-million proposal ran into immediate questions over who will pay for it. The state has set aside $80 million under a voter-approved water bond measure. That leaves a shortfall of $300 million.
 
The lake is often called "The Accidental Sea." That's because it was created in 1905 when the Colorado River breached a dike and two years of flooding filled a sizzling basin. Today, that basin is about 35 miles long, 15 miles wide and only 50 feet deep.
 
The lake has no outlet. It would have quickly evaporated if farmers hadn't settled California's southeastern corner. The Imperial Valley provides the U.S. with much of its winter vegetables. The valley's farms feed off the Colorado River and drain into the Salton Sea.
 
The 2003 agreement to wean California's dependence on the drought-stricken river called for San Diego to buy large amounts of Imperial Valley water. The San Diego County Water Authority and other local agencies agreed to deliver water to the Salton Sea for 15 years while the state developed a long-term fix.
 
The Brown administration said the U.S. Agriculture Department recently committed $7.5 million to preserve the lake and identified federal, state and local governments and philanthropic groups as potential contributors.
 
Even fully funded, the plan wouldn't cover newly exposed lakebed. This may cause respiratory problems for residents who breathe the dust and erode a key habitat for hundreds of species of birds.
 
Projects outlined in the 26-page plan released by California's Natural Resources Agency would cover 29,800 acres of the 48,300 acres expected to dry up by 2028 if nothing were done.
 
The Sierra Club said the plan addressed many of its short-term concerns. These included potential funding sources and specific projects to protect air quality and wildlife habitat. It said the lack of secured funding required state leaders to work together to avoid a "human health, ecological and economic disaster."
 
"The 10-year plan...could not come soon enough with sharp declines in water to the Salton Sea coming in less than 10 months," said Sarah Friedman. She is senior representative of the Sierra Club's Beyond Coal Campaign.
 
The Imperial Irrigation District, which manages the Imperial Valley's water, asked the State Water Resources Control Board to hold hearings. Those could lead to binding measures to preserve the lake.
 
Kevin Kelley is the district's general manager. He wrote that the plan "constitutes substantial progress." He was encouraged by its specific milestones and cost estimates. But he said State Water Resources Control Board's regulatory intervention and oversight was needed to ensure the lake's future after Brown leaves office. That will be in 2018.
 
"We recognize that the Brown administration has limited time left during its tenure and that it cannot bind its successors' hands," he wrote.

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CRITICAL THINKING QUESTION
Why does California want to save the lake?
Write your answers in the comments section below


COMMENTS (10)
  • hlily-dav
    3/30/2017 - 04:32 p.m.

    In response to "California plans to stop shrinkage of its largest lake" I agree that California representatives should save the lake. One reason why I support this plan is it could be good for California's economy. This lake brings lots of tourist, which is good for business. Tourist, and natives, would be sad to no longer get to go to it's annual events. Secondly, a project like this could help bring people together. People obviously don't want to see the lake dry-out, since voters decided that they government should put money into saving the lake. This lake has been there for a long time and many people would be upset to see it go, if they grew up with it. Finally, a large lake could be good for the environment in California. It says in the article,"The Imperial Valley provides the U.S. with much of its winter vegetables." This is very useful and important for the consumers. Also some animals who live near,and in, the lake could die from the lose of it. Even though, there are many questions on finding money for the lake, I think it is worth saving.

  • mcaitlin-dav
    3/30/2017 - 07:57 p.m.

    In response to "California plans to stop shrinkage of its largest lake," I disagree that California should slow the shrinking of the lake. My first reason is "Jerry Brown's administration has proposed spending nearly $400 million over 10 years to slow the shrinking of the state's largest lake," California would be spending almost $400 million for a lake to stop shrinking that will shrink anyways. My next reason is "That leaves a shortfall of $300 million," California is $300 million short of what they need, so it puts a flaw in their plan even if it was a good idea. My last reason is "This may cause respiratory problems for residents who breathe the dust and erode a key habitat for hundreds of species of birds," if they do go with their plan then they will cause problems for their residents. Even though slowing the shrinking of the lake is not a great idea, it feeds the valley and the people in the US.

  • sjulia-dav
    3/30/2017 - 11:30 p.m.

    In response to this article, I agree that California is trying to shrink their lakes. I disagree, because it is causing people respiratory problems. Another reason I agree is because in the article it says "The Sierra Club said the plan addressed many of its short-term concerns. These included potential funding sources and specific projects to protect air quality and wildlife habitat." A third reason is if the growth of the lake is doing harm to animals and the air. Even though this lake is very large it is causing lots of economic problems.

  • brycew-orv
    4/01/2017 - 01:33 p.m.

    Because they used to have events there like boat races and stuff back in its heyday

  • vcara-dav
    4/20/2017 - 07:54 p.m.

    In response to "California Plans to Stop Shrinkage of Its Largest Lake," I agree that the California representatives should indeed stop the lake shrinkage. One reason I agree is that it would impact agriculture greatly in a negative way if the lake were to dry up. Most of the winter vegetables have been provided by the Imperial Valley, so it would be effected if the lake dried. Another reason is that the lake helps California's economy, as it attracts tourists. It says in the article, "During its heyday of international speed boat races, it drew more visitors than Yosemite National Park." This further backs up the evidence that it attracts tourists, and California would lose money without the lake. Even though it is expensive and it will take a long time to get all the money, I think that helping the lake would be better in the long run.

  • izzyb1-har
    4/20/2017 - 08:56 p.m.

    California wants to save the lake because of a few reasons. One such reason is that the people use the lake for a source of fresh water to drink and bathe in. Another reason is that the lake may provide a chance fro people to have recreational time and to get more people to come to there for the money.Also, this lake provides a source of irrigation fro the nearby farms that grow the food for the people of the state and country. These are just a few reason for these people wanting to save this lake of many.

  • eharlan-dav
    4/20/2017 - 09:44 p.m.

    In response to "California plans to stop the shrinkage of its largest lake" I agree that they should fund the lake to be saved. One reason I agree is that it feed a lot of America with winter vegetables as it says in this quote "The Imperial Valley provides the U.S. with much of its winter vegetables. The valley's farms feed off the Colorado River and drain into the Salton Sea." Another reason I agree is it is the biggest lake in California and that would be tragic if it were to disappear so the next generation couldn't see the lake.

  • haydenb-bla
    4/28/2017 - 10:38 a.m.

    Summary: The Salton Sea, a very salty, desert lake, is quickly shrinking. A 14 year plan was made in order to get water from other rivers and feed it into the Salton Sea. However, that plan ends in 2018, and the lake is still getting smaller. The new plan is to build ponds at the end of each sides of the lake. My Opinion: I feel that the conservation of the lake is important, however, it is not worth spending $400 million on. I do feel like the water plan should be extended to past 2018, but it could be very expensive.

  • solomonm-bur
    5/15/2017 - 01:50 p.m.

    The lake probably serves an important landmark. The people probably love the lake and feel that it is important to them. They should save the lake.

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