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The Salton Sea is a saline lagoon

The Salton Sea is a saline lagoon

Salton Sea cleanup in jeopardy as states battle over Colorado River water

Environmentalists, along with local governments and the Army Corps of Engineers, are trying to find a compromise that would allow the state to restore the salinity of the Colorado River even after a massive dredging project in which 3,700 acres was washed away

By Jessica Gress; The San Francisco Chronicle

Published: February 1, 2011

Updated: February 1, 2011 at 04:45 AM

SAN FRANCISCO — As the salinity of the Colorado River has begun to drop at the head of the Colorado, its water-borne history has been rewritten in the process.

By mid-century, as the river’s flow slowed, a long-standing theory held that the salinity of the river was the result of river pollution and that the river could be restored if the pollution was removed.

Now the flow levels are falling rapidly as a result of climate change and the runoff of more than 300,000 new homes that have been built in the mountains, threatening the salinity and the water’s role in supporting a food crop that grows every year on the shores of the Salton Sea.

The consequences of the salinity problem go beyond the salted water that forms the sea — its food supply and livelihoods — with devastating effects on the marine habitat and habitats for birds and other wildlife, among other species and ecosystems in the river.

Last month, state regulators gave the Army Corps permission to dredge more than 3,700 acres of the riverbed in the Salton Sea, the shallow lagoon between the Colorado River and the sea. If allowed to go forward, the project would bring additional salinity to the surface of the sea.

But environmentalists want to stop the project after they won a temporary restraining order from state regulators, stopping the first stage of the $3.3-billion project from going forward. State officials have not yet decided if they will appeal the decision.

The Army Corps has said it will dredge up to 1,600 square miles of the Salton Sea

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