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Changes happening at the Salton Sea on state and federal level

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Changes happening at the Salton Sea on state and federal level

Picture of Angela Chen
Wednesday, July 7, 2021

You might have smelt it a couple weeks ago: the stench of rotten eggs. Long time Coachella Valley residents know that funky smell can waft over from the Salton Sea.

It happens on some particularly hot days which helps release more hydrogen sulfide. Combine that with the stifling humidity, which tends to materialize when winds are southerly and blowing toward the Coachella Valley from the lake, and you get the miasma of burnt garbage.

The Salton Sea can stink at times because of the organic matter, like dead fish rotting on the lake floor.

Michael Cohen, a longtime Salton Sea researcher at the water think tank "Pacific Institute," says a lot of ecological activity happens in these waters -- just not the kind we might like.

"It's what they call eutrophic, so it's a hyperproductive body of water, and that can lead to algal blooms, the cyanobacteria blooms and other explosions of life forms that are toxic for people and animals," Cohen said.

The Salton Sea has been a health problem for decades with longtime inaction from agencies charged with actually doing something about it. But there is recent movement on a couple wetland projects around the lake.

"I know it's been important for folks to actually see something happening at the sea," said Secretary Wade Crowfoot of the California Natural Resources Agency.

And recently, a virtual roundtable featuring the California Natural Resources Agency revealed the state is working on ways to get the community more involved.

"The impact on the sea are complicated but that doesn't mean we can't and shouldn't provide a very accessible way for local folks to share their input, so based on input, feedback that we received from the community we're actually expanding our public engagement effort," Crowfoot said.

Congressman Raul Ruiz also announced new legislation, the Salton Sea Projects Improvements Act, to streamline federal help at the Salton Sea.

"The result of inaction at the Salton Sea would be severe. The Pacific Institute measures the economic impact of inaction at over $70 billion in devalued property and other metrics," Ruiz said.

The bill would authorize $250 million in additional funding for those projects. Separately, an additional $220 million for the Salton Sea is in negotiation between the governor's office and the state legislature as part of a climate resiliency package.

State Assemblymember Eduardo Garcia says he's working hard to make sure it gets through this summer.

And in another development, the environmental awareness group, Eco-Media Compass, says the Bureau of Reclamation recently set aside $1 million for the Desert Shores Project.

If you'd like to submit your thoughts or ideas to the state, visit

Click here to visit our Salton Sea Project section to learn more about the special report

Part 1: Paradise Lost - Angela looks back at the history of the Salton Sea. Find out it's connection to Spanish explorers, and how it went from one of the most popular destination to abandoned and on the verge of disaster


Part 2: Toxic Exposure - Angela goes in-depth on the history of toxic outbreaks at the Salton Sea and its connection to the current health issues of those who live near the lake

Part 3: A Lake Languished - Angela look at the millions spent over the years to save the Salton Sea and why there is so little progress to show for it


Part 4: Salton Sea Plea - There are massive environmental problems at the Salton Sea, but after decades of neglect, could the lake's unique location be part of the solution in saving it? Angela takes a look at the movement happening at the Salton Sea


[This article was originally published by KESQ.]

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