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Lawmakers say fix Salton Sea

By Megan Terlecky, News Channel 3 Anchor & Reporter, megan.terlecky@kesq.com
Published On: Dec 14 2012 09:57:37 PM CST
Updated On: Dec 15 2012 04:18:11 PM CST

Lawmakers say fix Salton Sea

SALTON SEA, Calif. -

Sen. Barbra Boxer says now is the time to fix the Salton Sea.  Friday, the Democrat met with Interior Secretary Ken Salazar as well as local lawmakers to find a way to move forward with restoring the area landmark.  Even though a final solution will cost billions of dollars,  the cost of doing nothing, lawmakers say, could be much worse.

The Salton Sea, once an oasis in the desert, is slowly dying.  Right now there is simply not enough water, it is evaporating faster than it is coming in.

Bruce Wilcox, the environmental manger for Imperial Water Irrigation Transfer, says, "You get to a tipping point with the ecosystem at the sea and the fish die and the birds leave and then you have a large saline sink."

Over the summer, thousands of dead fish lined the shore creating a foul stench that engulfed the not only the Coachella Valley but several parts of the Los Angeles basin as well.

U.S. Rep.-elect Dr. Raul Ruiz says, "In surrounding communities where you have already children who face the highest rates of asthma, especially in low-income communities, but also seniors who have pulmonary disease like COPD and emphysema, that with the dust that is produced from here, can really aggravate their health."

Senator Barbra Boxer says, "If we don't act, we are going to have a public health emergency on our hands. We are going to have an economic problem and we just can't afford to go down that road."

That's why representatives from local and state government as well as a member of the president's Cabinet toured the area in person.

"This isn't about talk, this is about moving forward with funds so that we can continue the habitat restoration right now and put all of our resources together while we come up with a final solution," said Boxer.

This won't be easy or cheap.  Completely restoring the Salton Sea right now would simply cost too much money; that's why Interior Secretary Ken Salazar is looking at smaller projects that would help extend the life the area.

"I think we can find over time some of the funding to do some of the things that we have to do," said Salazar.

"It's like a safety deposit box you can build some of this habitat now until they can actually restore the sea and the birds and the wildlife will still keep coming here," said Wilcox.

"We can really come together, everybody at the table, to make sure that the Salton Sea is a very big economic boost in tourism, in green energy, in geothermal production, and also in making sure that we revive this area," said Ruiz.

It's a task that won't be easy and will take time.

"This is a puzzle and all of us carry a piece and we can only fulfill the puzzle when all of us put our piece on the table," said Ruiz.

Secretary Salazar says he will look at the funding options available, including looking at different conservation groups to help get some of these smaller projects off the ground.  He says he is putting the whole of the government behind these restoration efforts.