Restoration of the Salton Sea Summary Report

March 5, 2007

Mike Walker
Salton Sea Study Program Manager
Bureau of Reclamation
7301 Calle Agua Salada
Yuma AZ 85364
via email:

Re: Restoration of the Salton Sea Summary Report

Dear Mr. Walker:

We submit these comments on Reclamation’s Restoration of the Salton Sea Summary Report on behalf of the Pacific Institute and the Sierra Club. Our groups have been working actively to identify and implement a feasible Salton Sea restoration plan for nearly a decade. We welcome the federal and state efforts to improve the ecological health of the Salton Sea ecosystem, and offer these comments in the hopes that they might benefit Reclamation’s planning efforts and the Salton Sea ecosystem.

We commend Reclamation for producing a well-written report. We especially appreciate Reclamation’s candid analysis, with statements such as “In general, environmental conditions are likely to deteriorate, regardless of which alternative is selected.” (Summary Report, p. 6-9). However, statements such as these, and the report more generally, point to the failure of the study to meet its own stated objective:

“The primary focus of this study is to identify and evaluate a preferred action that ensures the restoration of the Salton Sea ecosystem and permanent protection of wildlife dependent on that ecosystem.” (1-2)

This signal failure alone requires that Reclamation redo its analysis and develop an alternative that satisfies the above objective.

With the passage and adoption of P.L. 102-575, P.L. 105-372, and P.L. 108-361, Congress and the President have demonstrated their interest in restoring the Salton Sea. The study’s lack of a viable alternative, however, suggests that Reclamation would prefer not to take action at the Salton Sea. The massively-engineered, exorbitantly expensive alternatives designed and reviewed in this study, and the explicit findings within the economic analysis, imply that restoration of the Salton Sea is simply too costly. Rather than thinking creatively and addressing the variety of challenges threatening the long-term existence of fish and wildlife dependent on the Salton Sea ecosystem, Reclamation developed a dated set of structural alternatives that focus narrowly on managing salinity. It appears that rather than designing for success, Reclamation sought to demonstrate infeasibility. As discussed in more detail in the following, Reclamation could and should do better. […]

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