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Push for Salton Sea restoration stalls drought plans in the West — we get the latest

The remains of a marina in Salton City, California, March 1st, 2017.
The remains of a marina in Salton City, California, March 1st, 2017.

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A Southern California irrigation district with the highest-priority rights to water from a major Western river is using its power to demand federal funds to restore the state’s largest lake, hoping to capitalize on one of its best opportunities yet to tackle a long-standing environmental and human health hazard.

The Imperial Irrigation District (IID) wants $200 million for the Salton Sea, a massive, briny lake that straddles Riverside and Imperial counties created when the Colorado River breached a dike in 1905 and flooded a dry lake bed. The money would help create habitat for migratory birds and suppress dust in communities with high rates of asthma and respiratory illnesses.

The district says that if the federal government doesn’t commit to giving California the money, it won’t sign off on a multi-state plan to preserve the river’s two largest reservoirs amid a prolonged drought.

Plus, in the latest turn of events, the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California has offered up water from its own reserves on behalf of the IID to push the drought contingency plan forward.

We check in on the latest.

With files from the Associated Press.


Emily C. Dooley, reporter covering California for Bloomberg Environment; she tweets @eDooleyNoted 

Tina Shields, manager for Imperial Irrigation District’s Water Department where she focuses on Colorado River resources, planning, water conservation and management functions; she oversees I.I.D.’s Colorado River water supply entitlement

Michael Cohen, senior researcher at the Pacific Institute, a non-profit that focuses on water policy; his areas of expertise and the Colorado river and the Salton Sea

James Eklund, legal counsel at the firm Squire Patton Bogg and Colorado’s state representative on Colorado River issues; he previously served as director of the Colorado Water Conservation Board and is the former architect of the Colorado River Plan; he tweets @EklundCO