Salton Sea gets new advocate

EL CENTRO, Calif. – Salton Sea – once a beautiful recreational lake -is now a brewing ecological disaster.
That’s why California governor Jerry Brown appointed Bruce Wilcox of the Imperial Irrigation District as the new Assistant Secretary for Salton Sea Policy. The new position was created within California’s natural resources agency to specifically advocate for the endangered lake.

“The Salton Sea is in trouble quite frankly. Particularly at the end of 2017, when the mitigation water stops, we’ll see even more decline. Right now we’re seeing increased salinity; we’re seeing elevation decline. It’s a dust control problem and a human health problem. We’re already almost out of time,” Wilcox said.

Some of his first steps will be to meet with key stakeholders: imperial irrigation district, imperial county and the Salton sea authority. They all have restoration programs already in place and it will be his job to help them move forward.

“The IID and Imperial County have a restoration program called the Salton Sea Renewable Energy Initiative. Salton Sea Authority has a restoration program, too. So combining those two programs over the next few years is really going to help with the air quality emissions and with habitat at the same time,” he added.

Wilcox says that part of his job will be to find more funding.

“There is some funding. The caution is there’s not enough funding. It can get us started but this is a large-scale problem that needs large-scale long-term funding,” he explained.

Wilcox sees the Salton Sea as a very complex problem, noting that when something is done in one area, problems appear in others.

“We’re going to worry a lot about dust control issues. We’re going to worry about funding issues. And salinity issues as we move forward. And we’re going to have to do that in a relatively fast manner because we don’t have much time,” he said.

No matter what work or challenges he will face, Wilcox knows he’s running against the clock. And he’s got little, precious time to find a way to stop the environmental disaster plaguing the Salton Sea.

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