The Salton Sea needs help. The large saline lake serves as a vital bird habitat in Southeastern California, and it has been shrinking for years. From the now-dry lakebed erupts toxic dust plumes that threaten the health of tens of thousands of Californians. The slowly evaporating waters are becoming poisonous due to high salinity levels, killing the fish that serve as food for visiting birds. And the once-thriving vacation economy that surrounded the Salton Sea has all but vanished.
Environmental justice groups and conservation organizations like Audubon have argued for action on the Salton Sea for years, but progress has been slow. Finally, some headway. This week the Obama Administration and California heeded those calls by announcing a new agreement to help address the lake’s rapidly compounding problems.
The agreement focuses on two key areas: long-term environmental viability of the Salton Sea and associated watershed, and renewable energy development in the area. Included in the agreement is a $10 million fundraising goal over five years from a collection of private foundations. That money will be used to support a plan to protect public health and the environment, promote drought resilience, and increase habitat restoration. Renewable energy development—and the associated economic development—is also a big focus of the agreement, which specifically mentions local geothermal energy development as a possible path to economic stability.
This pact is just the start to finally addressing the Salton Sea’s problems, but it’s a promising one. To learn more about the Salton Sea and the environmental and public-health issues surrounding it, read our recent feature article on it here. Read more about Audubon California's work on the Salton Sea here.