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Fixing the Salton Sea

Salton Sea looking for money to stop growing problem

SALTON SEA, Calf - The Salton Sea Authority says it has a way to fix the smell flowing into the Coachella Valley. The problem is finding away to fund it, and the answer may lie with the energy industry.

Right now the Salton Sea is evaporating at an astounding rate.

J. Andrew Schlange, the interim general manager for the Salton Sea Authority, says, "There is not enough in flow of water going in. The sea is shrinking, and the salinity is increasing."

The Salton Sea is 50% saltier than the ocean.

"Ultimately, if the salinity continues to increase, its anticipated the fishery will die off," says Schlange.

The plan the Salton Sea Authority is looking at right now, would cut the Salton Sea in half by building a levy. A channel about a mile wide would remain on the west side of the lake for recreation, but in the middle, the Authority would let that area dry out. This would allow the north half of the lake to return to normal, allowing people to fish and even boat on the lake.

Schlange says, "We were successful in proving it on a smaller scale at Lake Elsinore a number of years ago. Now, all I need is money."

The problem is funding it. The project will cost about $3 billion; that's money the state doesn't have.

Schlange says, "What we are working to achieve is to break these preferred projects down into manageable projects."

The board is looking at allowing private companies access to the lake's resources in exchange for funding a small project.

"There is a great deal of resources that would be available under the Salton Sea that can be utilized to generate revenue, such as geothermal energy. There are areas that could be used for salt or energy development," says Schlange.

The Salton Sea Authority is talking to private businesses, but a $2 million study stands in the way of any partnership getting off the ground.

Schlange says, "We had it in the budget in July, and unfortunately it was line item-vetoed. Does that mean we are giving up? No."

Once the funding is in place, the project won't be a quick fix. The Salton Sea Authority says it will take about 50 years for the lake to return to normal.

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