The receding Salton Sea is shown from its western edge near the community of Desert Shores in this July 2020 photo. | GETSOMEPHOTO

County Official Wants Voice in QSA Meetings to Restore Salton Sea

At least one Imperial County official wants a say on projects funded by the Quantification Settlement Agreement to restore the ailing Salton Sea.

District 4 Supervisor Ryan Kelley asked Imperial County staff to work with Riverside County to come up with a way Imperial County could have a voice on the QSA joint-powers authority that decides on funding projects to restore the Salton Sea.

Kelley, whose district encompasses the southern end of the sea, made the request during the county board meeting on Tuesday, Feb. 9.

The Quantification Settlement Agreement, signed in 2003 by the Imperial Irrigation District, Coachella Valley Water District, San Diego County Water Authority and Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, implements water transfers and supply programs that allows California to live within the state’s 4.4 million-acre-foot basic annual apportionment of Colorado River water. The agreements came in response to California consistently using more than its annual share of Colorado River water.

A part of the agreement, a joint-powers authority was created to decide on Salton Sea-based projects that will mitigate the toll that less water going into the Salton Sea will have on the region. With fewer Colorado River water being used and better farming technique underway in the Imperial Valley, there is less excess water flowing through the sea’s only inlets, the New and Alamo rivers fed by agricultural runoff.

Kelley said the JPA was created to mitigate the receding shoreline of the Salton Sea, but those requirements seem to go unnoticed as the shoreline continues to ebb. Money is allocated for projects every year, “and the county of Imperial should have a voice in what’s being approved every year,” he said.

The county of Imperial is the agency seeing some of the main effects of a receding Salton Sea, like the environmental impacts and commercial impacts.

“Now it’s always good to take somebody for their word, but it’s better to be engaged in that constructive conversation,” Kelley said.

His request is not related to the Red Hill Bay project, which has been stalled since the project broke ground in 2015, or the species conservation habitat project, he said.

Rather, it is because that funding stream is being used in an exceedingly small window of projects, while the county has been approached and has looked at several different projects that have been proposed to restore the receding sea level.

“People making those choices should be able to hear from the county, because we represent the people living here,” Kelley said, adding that he doesn’t represent just water users, state agencies, or a metropolitan water district, as some of the agencies on the JPA do. “I believe it’s a benefit to the JPA to have the land-use authorities involved in what’s happening around the Salton Sea.”

Intergovernmental Relations Director Rebecca Terrazas-Baxter said she would work with Riverside County to come up with a way the county could have a voice at the JPA meetings.

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