Metropolitan to Cooperate in Studies of Salton Sea Restoration Plans

Plans Could Help Resolve Sea's Environmental Issues, Free Up Colorado River Water for Urban Southern California

Determined to examine every option that might secure reliable water supplies for urban Southern California and help the state reduce its reliance on surplus Colorado River water, Metropolitan Water District's board of directors joined efforts aimed at addressing issues surrounding the Salton Sea.

Metropolitan's board directed district staff to cooperate with the Salton Sea Authority in studying the latest restoration plans, which propose to shrink the sea's size, restore a smaller sea, desalt agricultural runoff for use on nearby farms and free up Colorado River supplies for use in urban areas.

"Although many of the details need to be worked out, the plan has the potential to restore the sea while helping California manage its Colorado River supplies more efficiently," said Metropolitan Chairman Phillip J. Pace.

"We are compelled by our obligation to meet the water supply needs of our 26 member public agencies and the 18 million Southern Californians they serve to investigate any reasonable alternative that could help meet the state's challenge of better managing its use of Colorado River water," Pace said.

Metropolitan's board action follows a presentation of the plan made by Tom Kirk, executive director of the Salton Sea Authority, at a May 27 workshop. The Authority is a joint powers agency chartered by the state in 1993 to work with state and federal agencies and the Republic of Mexico in developing a program that would continue the sea's recreational and environmental benefits.

The latest proposal from the Authority, which is comprised of the Coachella Valley Water District and Imperial Irrigation District as well as Riverside and Imperial counties, calls for agricultural runoff that currently flows from the Imperial Valley into the sea to be captured and desalted. Local area farmers would then reuse the treated water, and Colorado River water would be made available for exchange and transfer to urban Southern California.

In its approved motion, Metropolitan's board recognized that the costs for any desalting project that creates additional water supplies could be assumed by the agencies that receive the treated water. However, the board also acknowledged that the restoration of the Salton Sea is "a public responsibility" to be assumed by the state and federal governments.

Ronald R. Gastelum, Metropolitan's president and chief executive officer, noted that the Authority's plan could help resolve the Salton Sea's long-standing environmental issues that have stymied efforts to complete a comprehensive Colorado River plan and also could make water available for cost-effective water transfers.

"In the end, this proposal may offer a definitive, long-term determination on restoring the Salton Sea and provide an opportunity for Metropolitan and the San Diego Water Authority to receive reliable water supplies at a reasonable cost," Gastelum said.

Metropolitan Water District of Southern California

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