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The Salton Sea

The Salton Sea - Photo Gallery by Bob Reynolds



 

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The Salton Sea

The Salton Sea is located in Southern California about 50 miles from the US/Mexican border. The Sea is about 35 miles long, 15 miles wide and has a surface area of approximately 380 square miles. It's elevation is about 227 feet below sea level and its maximum depth reaches 51 feet.

The Salton Sea and surrounding land is an area of many uses, as well as a diverse habitat for wildlife. The modern day Salton Sea was created in 1905 when heavy rains and snowmelt caused the Colorado River to breach dikes in the Imperial Valley and flood the Salton Sink basin. It took nearly two years to repair the dikes and contain the water flooding into the basin. Today, the water level is mostly maintained by runoff from agriculture activities and inflows from the New, Alamo and Whitewater Rivers.

The area around the Salton Sea contains nearly 500,000 acres of cultivated agriculture land. The Imperial and Riverside Counties alone produced about 1.5 billion dollars in agricultural goods in 1999. The area also supports 15 geothermal power plants that produce about 268 million watts of electricity.

With over 90% of the wetlands in California lost due to real estate development and other causes, the Salton Sea has become an important stopover for many types of birds. Over 400 species of birds have been counted at the Sea, including Eared Grebes, endangered Brown Pelicans, Great Blue Herons, Ospreys, Burrowing Owls, gulls, ducks, geese and terns.

The Salton Sea has become a topic of great debate in recent years. Once it was one of the most visited recreational destinations in California, topping even Yosemite National Park in the number of visitors each year.

However, now it is plagued by numerous problems including 1) Disputes over water rights 2) Water quality issues arising from pollution by the New River, runoff from nearby agriculture activities, increasing salinity, overgrowth of algae, etc 4) Large fish and avian die offs 5) Significant odor problems during increased algae growth and fish/avian die offs 6) Loss of tourism (except for photographers) 7) And the eventual total loss of the Sea, wetlands and rich ecosystem through evaporation, diversion of water and the challenges of modern land/water resource management.

Today there are ongoing discussions and plans to rescue the Salton Sea, thanks in large part to the efforts of the late Sonny Bono during his tenure as Mayor of Palm Springs and his two terms in the US congress.
 

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Agriculture on the Salton Sea
Agriculture on the Salton Sea
Farmland
Farmland
Hay
Hay
Bird
Bird
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Irrigation Canal
Irrigation Canal
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Chair with a View
Chair with a View
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