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Public Lecture Sneak Peek: Restoring the Salton Sea

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Sneak preview of USGS July Evening Public Lecture, Restoring California's "inland Sea"—Status of efforts to restore the Salton Sea. The lecture will take place on July 30th, 7:00PM at the USGS Menlo Park Science Center, Bldg. 3, Conference Room A.


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Amelia: Hello and Welcome to a sneak preview of our Western Region Evening Public Lecture for July 30th.  I'm Amelia Barrales and today we have Lee Case from the Salton Sea Science Office.

Hello Lee, and thank you so much for this sneak preview of your talk. 

Lee:  It is my pleasure.

Amelia:  Your lecture at the end of the month is entitled "Restoring California's "Inland Sea", Status of efforts to Restore the Salton Sea.  Can you briefly describe what the Salton Sea is for us? 

Lee: Sure, the Salton Sea is California’s largest lake actually, it was created by the Colorado River levee break back in 1905.  At that time the river flowed into the current Salton Sea for about 18 months before the levee was repaired.  Today the lake is about 35 miles long, around 15 miles wide and averages about 30 feet deep. It’s surface elevation is about 230 feet below sea level and the average salinity today is around 48 thousand milligrams per liter, that is about oh …37% greater than the salinity of the pacific ocean.  Now with the sea, most of the inflow comes from agricultural drainage and the whitewater the new and the Alamo rivers and the only way water leaves the Salton Sea is by evaporation there are no up-flowing river restraints.

Amelia:  So what is the scientific problem of the Salton Sea?  

Lee:  There are a number of issues that we face with the Salton Sea, but currently the level of the sea is continuing to drop. The salinity of the sea continues to increase and is soon going to be greater than really the biological tolerances of most species.  Unless we have mitigation actions of some kind, the reduced flows into the sea are going to result in a loss of aquatic and wetland habitat, gonna cause the continued increase of salinity, gonna cause a the lake level to continue to recede and can also result in degraded air quality as a result of the exposed lake bottom sediments being eroded by wind action.

Amelia:  So what is the Salton Sea Science Office doing about these issues and really who should care?

Lee: The Salton Sea is a critical stop for migratory birds on the pacific and central flyways. We see and document more than 400 species of birds including 80% of the western population of white pelicans and over 20 species concerned that use the system. We’ve noticed that birds that were abandoned at the sea have been reported and recovered throughout north America. This combination of avian bio diversity and importance as a breeding habitat is unsurpassed by any limited geographic area within the continuous 48 states and latin America. In addition there are other reasons why we should care, there are human health issues associated with the potential for dust migration. Human health in Mexico and the Coachella and Imperial Valleys of California, could be affected by increased mounts of wind born dust as the lake levels decline and sediments currently underwater are exposed.  There are legal issues that basically associate responsibility for dust migration with the owners of the land, so there are federal and as well as private land owners underneath the sea that might be responsible for issues and problems. And right now Imperial County has one of the highest incidences of childhood asthma in the entire state of California.

Amelia:  Well Lee, this has all been really great stuff.  Looking forward to hear a lot more at the end of the month and thank you so much.

Lee: Your so welcome looking forward to being there.

Amelia: If you are interested in learning more about this upcoming lecture and to view any of our previous lectures, please visit our USGS Evening Public Lecture Series website at His video will be available online on at the end of the month for viewing .  

Thank you for your interest in our Western Region Evening Public Lecture Series.  

This a production of the U.S. Geological Survey, Department of Interior. 

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