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April 25, 2018

How did the Salton Sea become one of America’s largest Wastelands? PART I



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SALTON SEA

Why the Salton Sea?

 

We have found so many great stories about the Salton Sea via the internet and documentaries that we have decided to quote some of the history we have found based on other investigators & reporters that have really done their homework. As well, I personally have had a great interest in the Salton Sea for many years based on a number of reasons. It’s just one of those stories that has its own unique twists and turns, and even a sinister side that is absolutely intriguing. The Salton Sea is also one of what appears to be a man-made environmental nightmare! The Salton Sea that exists today is the direct result of an environmental disaster that occurred between 1905 and 1907. How you may ask? According to reports, the disaster occurred as a direct result of improper management of irrigation routes from the Colorado River which caused the river to flow unchecked into the Salton Sink for roughly two years. The residual water from this catastrophe formed the Salton Sea of today, and continuing man-made agricultural runoff is largely responsible for sustaining it. We ask ourselves, is the Salton Sea part of a Federal Water Grab?

  In 2013, The Truth Denied will set out with cameras and crew to investigate the Salton Sea.  As head of this project, I will do my best to give all of our readers a re-cap of what is already available on the internet and why it is such an important topic and subject matter. It is quite an alarming story I must say! Okay, ready for your history lesson?

 

Salton Sea Google Earth IMG.

 

HISTORY of the great SALTON SEA

 

The Salton Sea Riviera Resort of the '70's

What is the Sultan Sea and where is it located?

“The Salton Sea is one of the most enigmatic places in the Southwest–an otherworldly lake in the barren, naked desert, sandwiched between the resorts of Palm Springs and the Mexican border.  Its languid surface, at 228 feet below sea level, is only five feet higher than the lowest point in Death Valley.  This former resort region had its heyday during the early 1960’s, when it was a bustling place filled with weekend revelers from the nearby Los Angeles and San Diego metropolitan areas.  For a time, the Sea was a haven for (thousands) of boaters and fishermen.”

 

SALTON SEA

The Salton Sea was once a popular place for boating, swimming, fishing, etc.but an increase in the salt level of the water caused large numbers of fish to die and the water became foul. This, in addition to a couple of hurricanes in the 1970’s, caused the communities surrounding the sea to deteriorate. http://www.flickr.com/photos/slworking/sets/72157605264326878/

SALTON SEA ABANDONED

Today, the few people who remain are hardy individualist types looking for isolation and a cheap place to live.  The air is heavy with heat and decay.  It’s a lonely, haunted place.” From Lost America http://lostamerica.com/photo-items/the-salton-sea/

 

Thousands of dead fish on the Salton Sea

Link to the Map of SULTAN SEA  https://maps.google.com/maps?ll=33.228493,-115.583038&spn=0.100537,0.121656&t=k&hl=en

Salton Sea Today

How did the Salton Sea become one of America’s largest Wasteland?

 

History 1911-1955 (From a Developers perspective)

“In 1911, residents of the Imperial Valley supported the creation of Imperial Irrigation District to replace the Colorado River Development Company in bringing water to residents. This is the same company that my family pays electricity bills to today. During World War I, and later during World War 2, cultivation of mullet in the sea becomes a profitable industry–mainly because of the wartime dangers in open fishing waters. In 1924, President Coolidge set aside the sea as an agricultural drainage site. This action would indeed prove to have tremendous consequences to the ecology of the lake. It would also secure the lake’s existence far into the future, since agricultural runoff is its primary water input. But, more on that later. Southern Pacific was finally compensated by Congress in 1930 for its fight against the “Great Diversion.” In 1955, The Salton Sea State Park was established.http://desertsearat.wordpress.com/2011/12/04/the-glory-days/

Salton Sea, California - This popular resort on the west shore of this sea in the desert provides all types of accommodations for the vacationing public. POST CARD

Above photo from : http://viewlinerltd.blogspot.com/2010/05/salton-sea-postcards.html

The first visionary to see the Salton Sea as a “resort area” was Gus Eilers. Eilers secured the land of Date Palm Shore in 1926, but the stock market crash and Great Depression prevented the optimum development of his entertainment and relaxation haven. The land was sold to Roy Hunter in 1946, who then dubbed it Desert Beach.” Continue the story here: http://desertsearat.wordpress.com/2011/12/04/the-glory-days/

Post Card of Salton Sea Resort

Above photo: DESERT SHORES (234 Ft. Below sea level) – Salton Sea, California – This popular resort on the west shore of this sea in the desert provides all types of accomodations for the vacationing public. The boating facilities are the best and a modern motel, trailer park and cafe will add to your vacationing pleasure here on the shores of the world’s fastest body of water.http://viewlinerltd.blogspot.com/2010/05/salton-sea-postcards.html

Salton Sea Post Card

Above Photo: SALTON SANDS, CALIFORNIA – This picture was taken in the spring of 1958 on the Salton Riviera’s opening day — the day a city was born on the shores of the Salton Sea. A few months later these tents were replaced by permanent buildings and a beautiful modern city was on its way. http://viewlinerltd.blogspot.com/2010/05/salton-sea-postcards.html

 

“In 1927, attempts to drill for geothermal energy were made on the muddy shores of the Salton Sea. According to many scientists, the Imperial Valley has high geothermal potential. Attempts of the twenties did not succeed, due to the impurities in the steam rising from the earth, which damaged equipment. Many people today still believe in this use of the land that may even help save the Sea.

The author goes on to say that

“In the 1940s, both during and after the war, a Navy base operated at the Salton Sea. After the war the focus was on rocket and missile technology. Little is known about the actual activities of the base. But, it is in an interesting instance of the many uses people have found for the area. Unfortunately, sea levels began to rise in the 1950s, putting the base at risk.

Salton Sea Waste Land

1995

But the sea did continue to rise, and today, in 1995, only vandalized buildings remain to remind us of the Salton Sea’s part in developing the rocket technology which made our space program possible, and many of the spin-off benefits we enjoy in everyday life. (Laflin)
The Salton Sea was once a popular place for boating, swimming, fishing, etc., but an increase in the salt level of the water caused large numbers of fish to die and the water became foul. This, in addition to a couple of hurricanes in the 1970’s, caused the communities surrounding the sea to deteriorate. http://www.flickr.com/photos/slworking/sets/72157605264326878/

 

 

 

The Floods of 1976 & 1977

 

“A large part of the town of Salton Sea Beach was inundated during the floods of 1976 and ’77.  Night shooting these neighborhoods twenty years later found a desolate quagmire peppered with block after block of abandoned trailers, homes and businesses.  The ground was covered with a jagged white crust glowing brightly in the moonlight.  Every few steps it’d crack under your weight, sinking you ankle deep, into the stinking mud.  Somnolent flies stirred to life in black clouds with every step.  On the shoreline, a few unrecognizable cars rested up to their door handles in the sludgy water. Their bodies covered with a rocky crust, like a once submerged reef poking out of a calm sea.  The rotten trailers and buildings were explosively hot inside, even hours after sundown.  Their tattered curtains swayed in the evil smelling breeze as thousands of birds cawed at the swollen moon.”

See the story here: http://lostamerica.com/photo-items/the-salton-sea/

To aid our readers, we have listed most important dates relative to the Salton Sea’s current condition here:

 

“1976   Tropical storm Kathleen sweeps through Imperial Valley, flooding farmland and increasing level of Salton Sea. Above average rainfall for the next seven years, along with increased agricultural runoff and increased flows from Mexico, cause flooding of shoreline resorts.

1977: Tropical storm Doreen sweeps through Imperial Valley, the second “100 year storm” in two years.

1985: Salinity of the Salton Sea exceeds 40 ppt.

1992: 150,000 eared grebes die on Salton Sea, capturing national attention.

1996: Type C avian botulism causes large-scale mortalities of white and brown pelicans. This die-off focused national attention on the Sea. An estimated 15 to 20 percent of the western population of white pelicans and more than 1,000 endangered brown pelicans died. This was the largest reported die-off of an endangered species.

The Late Congressman Sonny Bono attempts to save Salton Sea

1997: Congressman Sonny Bono, also former Mayor of Palm Springs, resolves to champion restoration of the Salton Sea and forms the Congressional Salton Sea Task Force.

1997: Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt launches multi-agency effort to restore the sea.

1998: Congressman Bono is killed in skiing accident. Mary Bono, his wife, is elected to Congress and picks up the banner for the Salton Sea.”

* Coincidentally, one week after Bono’s death, Michael Kennedy (son of Robert F. Kennedy) was also killed in a skiing accident in Aspen, CO.

1998: Congress passes Salton Sea Reclamation Act directing the Secretary of Interior, acting through the Bureau of Reclamation, to prepare a feasibility study on restoration of the Salton Sea and submit it to Congress by January 1, 2000.”

Note: It is this very Reclamation Act that we are currently investigating at TTD, to be shared in our reporting this year.

1999: In August, 7.6 million tilapia and croakers die from oxygen being depleted due to algae in Salton Sea; yet scientific studies show the Salton Sea may have the most productive fishery in the world.

2003: After years of fighting, Southern California’s water districts sign-off on the Quantification Settlement Agreement. The QSA calls for the transfer of as much as 300,000 acre feet of water from the Imperial Irrigation District to the San Diego County Water Authority. It also provides approximately $300 million in Salton Sea restoration funding.

 

Above photo: In 1955, Salton Sea became a State Park, but scientists noticed that the water was stagnating and salinity levels were rising. Thirty years later, people were warned to limit their consumption of fish from the lake, due to selenium threats. In the Seventies two major tropical storms swept through the region, flooding resorts which had begun growing around its perimeters. In 1992, 150,000 grebes died on the Sea, then in 1996, over a thousand pelicans succumbed to botulism. In 1999, 7.6 million tilapia and croakers washed ashore, dead due to lack of oxygen (caused by excessive algae). http://been-seen.com/travel-blog/places-to-go/salton-sea

Above photo :Visit the lake today and you’ll occasionally see strangely-colored water, created by chemical reactions and causing massive fish die-offs. These dead fish then litter its shores, with accompanying putrid smells. According to the Salton Sea Authority, ‘Now at 44 parts per thousand, or at a content level 25% greater than the ocean, the hypersaline environment is jeopardizing the survival of fish and will ultimately jeopardize the survival of much of the Sea’s biological bounty.’ Work is underway to reverse this trend, but until then Salton Sea remains a curious accidental phenomenon, at once beautiful and eerie.  http://been-seen.com/travel-blog/places-to-go/salton-sea

*TTD will investigate what happened to the $300 million.

 

For the most concise Chronological Order dated from 10,000 B.C. to 2003

Click here: http://www.saltonsea.ca.gov/about/history.htm

 

2006:  The 2006 documentary film “Plagues & Pleasures on the Salton Sea” (narrated by John Waters) documents the lives of the inhabitants of Bombay Beach, Niland, and Salton City, as well as the ecological issues associated with the Sea.

 

Unfortunately the timeline ends here in 2006 for the History of the Salton Sea. In  Part II,   TTD will bring you current information on the Salton Sea, catch you up to speed, hopefully answer the questions that we all want answered like:

1. Is the government going to allow the Salton Sea to simply dry up and vanish?

2. If so, how does this effect the thousands of  migratory birds as well as fish?

3. What  has Sonny Bono’s widow Mary Bono been able to do to carry out Sonny’s work with Salton Sea?

4. Is there any talk about developing the area into the resort it once was in the past?

5. What do the few remaining homeowners think and feel about being left stranded?

6. What is The Department of Wild Life doing about this ecological disaster?

7. Is the Salton Sea part of a Federal water grab?

 

We leave you with this website for now!

Past and Future of the Salton Sea by Michael J. Cohen  (includes photos) FI G U R E WB 2.1 SALTON SEA LIES IN REMOTE SOUTH-EASTERN CALIFORNIA.Source: Image ISS004-E-6119.JPG taken January 10, 2002, courtesy of Earth Sciences and Image Analysis Laboratory, NASA Johnson Space Center, available at http://eol.jsc.nasa.govhttp://www.worldwater.org/data20082009/WB02.pdf

 

 

 

SOURCES:

Sources: DeBuys, William Eno., and Joan Myers. Salt Dreams: Land & Water in Low-down California. Albuquerque: University of New Mexico, 1999. Print.

DESERT MAGAZINE ARTICLE DUMMMY Laflin, P., 1995. The Salton Sea: California’s overlooked treasure. The Periscope, Coachella Valley Historical Society, Indio, California. 61 pp. (Reprinted in 1999) accessed: http://www.sci.sdsu.edu/salton/PeriscopeSaltonSea.html

 

http://www.flickr.com/photos/slworking/sets/72157605264326878/

http://desertsearat.wordpress.com/2011/12/04/the-glory-days/

http://www.saltonsea.ca.gov/about/history.htm

https://maps.google.com/maps?ll=33.228493,-115.583038&spn=0.100537,0.121656&t=k&hl=en

Post Card Story care of  http://viewlinerltd.blogspot.com/2010/05/salton-sea-postcards.html

http://been-seen.com/travel-blog/places-to-go/salton-sea

http://www.sci.sdsu.edu/salton/EnvirnEconValueSaltonSea.html

 

 

Watch for Part II of  How did the Salton Sea become one of America’s largest Wastelands? Coming Soon!

 

 

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9 Responses “How did the Salton Sea become one of America’s largest Wastelands? PART I”

  1. richard johnson
    May 17, 2013 at 2:51 PM

    wow,how do you fix that?

    • May 24, 2014 at 11:06 PM

      fix what?

    • October 2, 2014 at 1:16 PM

      Sonny Bono, who was the mayor of Palm Springs once took on the project of cleaning The Salton Sea up and restoring it to the Luxury Vacation Sight that it once was. He died, and nothing has moved forward. It’s a man made lake for one, and a man made disaster for 2. LOT OF $$$$ to clean it all up.

  2. clay mccormick
    June 19, 2015 at 8:34 PM

    the Salton sea is the only remaining larger bird sanctuary left in California.
    if it dies the migratory bird populations will die.
    the only real fix for this is to add lots of fresh water or to remove lots of salt.
    if the Salton sea was managed to extensively crop resources in a sustainable manor,rather than intensively exploited. a lot of capitol might be made available to desalinate enough sea water to save the Salton sea though vary cheap power would have to be available.
    one can only hope that the skunk works at Northrup can make good on the promise of cheap small fusion by 2018.

    • June 20, 2015 at 12:19 AM

      Hello Clay,
      Thanks for contacting TTD. Really, where can I gather information on NG creating a small fushion and what would it be for? Look forward to hearing from you!
      Roxy Lopez

  3. March 11, 2016 at 6:44 PM

    Is the government going to allow the Salton Sea to simply dry up and vanish?

    • March 14, 2016 at 2:23 AM

      Allowing the Salton Sea to dry up poses serious public health risks, as a result of exposed toxic dust, to populations from Mexicali to Santa Barbara, as well as ecological risk to the 400+ bird species that spend some portion of the year there. The Quantification Settlement Agreement that provides for the urban water transfer from Imperia Irrigation District to San Diego in 2017 puts the responsibility for the fate of the Salton Sea in the hands of the State of California. The State Government has currently made moves towards covering exposed playa pursuing long-term sustainability for the Sea, but stay tuned as more action plays out in 2016!

      • March 14, 2016 at 3:22 PM

        Don’t you think it is worthy to revive the Salton Sea? Does California find it worthy and how would they eliminate the farming drainage from ever entering this location again, the CAUSE of the contaminents and polution that has practically DESTROYED the Sea? What do you see coming Holly?

  4. Walt Pretty lll
    April 25, 2017 at 7:29 PM

    Yes I definitely want to see the Salton Sea saved.i have been interested in the history of it as well as I would love to see it.i currently live in VT and would like to relocate.

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