Historic Salton Sea agreement helps restoration effort

SALTON SEA, Calif. - A historic day Thursday in the effort to restore the Salton Sea.  After being at odds for a decade,  the two largest agencies in charge of the area have formally agreed to work together.

Imperial County and the Imperial Irrigation district signed the memorandum of understanding this afternoon.

Agreeing to work together to restore the Salton Sea may seem like a small thing, but we've seen recently on a national level what can happen if lawmakers don't come together to solve a problem, and the problem the dying Salton Sea has become is too great for local lawmakers to ignore.

"This is an ancient sea that goes back thousands of years," said Imperial County Supervisor Raymond Castillo.

California's largest lake is drying up, threatening an ecological disaster. 

"We are talking about billions of dollars not millions, billions and somehow trying to come up with a working plan to not only how are we going to mitigate the dust emissions, but how are we going to raise the money," said Castillo.

The Salton Sea shoreline has been dramatically receeding leaving behind a toxic wasteland.

"These dust emissions here can be toxic, can be very unhealthful to the air and to the citizens as they breathe the air, and the potential for our agricultural lands is very huge," said Castillo. 

But both Imperial County and the Imperial Irrigation District have had different ideas of how to fix the problem.

"There are always issues of control and power at play over which agency has say so over different areas," said IID Board President Matt Dessert.  "Everyone was at odds with each other and nothing was getting done."

But time is running out.  In 2017 more water will be diverted to San Diego instead of the Salton Sea.  It's a scenario both the county and irrigation district agree would be a disastrous. 

"We can't wait around, so for now we are able to strike up a deal with Imperial Irrigation District and team up and work together to make sure that we don't have an ecological disaster," said Castillo.

"This allows us to work as one voice, with the region at a federal level and at the state level to discuss and implement and design a plan," said Dessert. 

"This is a perfect example of how regardless of ideologies, regardless of philosophy, there is always a common ground and in this case it's the public health and wellbeing," said Coachella Mayor Edwardo Garcia.

A number of small projects are under way, however they've only just scratched the surface there is still a lot of work to be done.  But with Thursday's agreement, both Imperial County and the Imperial Irrigation District will be working together.

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