An open letter to Chair Felicia Marcus:
California is now moving into its fifth year of a mega drought. Governor Brown has imposed mandatory water usage reductions on the citizens of California. Yet, a water agency, under the auspices of your department, continues to waste billions of gallons of water on outdated mitigation measures that have zero value according to our own governor. We ask that you and your board act immediately to stop this absurd waste.
In 2003, the Quantification Settlement Agreement (QSA) was signed and the QSA Joint Powers Authority (JPA) was established to oversee and manage its implementation. This landmark water transfer agreement provided Colorado River water to the urban Southern California cities, via the Imperial Irrigation District’s (IID) scheme of fallowing agricultural lands, as well as other measures. The State, through your department, in adherence to the 2002 PEIR, imposed mitigation measures within the Agreement, whereby a certain amount of water was to be released into the Salton Sea to prevent its environmental collapse due to elevated salinity. The Department of Fish and Game (DFG), contractually obligated the State of California to fund the preferred Salton Sea restoration plan by being a signatory to the QSA. By all accounts, restoration would be well under way by the end of 2017, when the water mitigation requirements would expire.
You are well aware that the $9 billion dollar plan was never funded by our esteemed legislature; hence no restoration of the Salton Sea was ever initiated. The courts ruled that although the State is contractually obligated to restore the Sea, the JPA is powerless to force it to appropriate the money. Meanwhile, buried in the governor’s revised 2015-16 budget plan are the ominous words “prior comprehensive plans to restore the sea are no longer feasible due to cost and decreased water availability resulting from the drought in California and in the southwestern states”. Done.
This is no longer mitigation – it is criminal waste. The Salton Sea has already receded by almost 7 feet since 2002, and even the most wishful believers in its restoration will agree that it will shrink further and that the salinity will go up, and finally kill the last tilapia. There is no solution by 2018! Therefore any “mitigation” water will have been wasted, as the Sea will begin a rapid collapse due to the State’s inability to fund the restoration.
There is a $3 billion dollar plan being advanced by the IID, but not only does it also recognize a hugely reduced sea, but its very viability (funding?) and timing are highly uncertain. Judging by the time it took to develop the earlier one, the best-case estimate is probably a half dozen years before it is even brought before the legislature for money. Yet, the JPA, zombie-like, continues to waste this precious commodity instead of recharging our heavily depleted aquifers. All of the water simply evaporates! Since 2014 until the end of 2017, 70 years worth of drinking water for Californians will have been poured down the drain!
Under any scenario, there is no rational, scientifically supported reason to continue this mindless procedure, save for some weak political attempt at appeasement, or a slavish adherence to a broken agreement. Please stop this lunacy!
We await your response. Contact us at: [email protected]
Invisible Sea, Inc., a California non-profit