A proposed $400 million project to build a protective barrier surrounding the Salton Sea is the latest initiative aimed at restoring the lake and preserving its receding shoreline.
The “North Lake Vision” proposed by Fourth District Supervisor V. Manuel Perez involves the creation of an “enhanced infrastructure finance district” that would issue bonds for the North Lake projects, to be repaid through property, sales and hotel taxes. The supervisor’s office says revenues from all proposed tax sources would total around $1 billion.
According to the plan, the in-lake barrier constructed around the Salton Sea would preserve a shoreline that has been shrinking at a exponential rate, and create a 4,200-acre lake on the north end of the sea that would be roughly twice the size of Big Bear Lake and about 14 feet deep at its largest depths.
The proposal, which was unveiled Thursday at the ninth annual Southern California Energy Water and Green Living Summit in Rancho Mirage, also includes restoring and expanding the Whitewater River where it flows into the lake. The 10-mile river would be available for recreational use, such as canoeing and rafting.
The project still requires approval from the Riverside County Board of Supervisors, as well as approval of a bond measure from voters within the proposed district.
Other Salton Sea initiatives include the Salton Sea Management Program, an interagency plan for reducing the effects of toxic dust exposed by the lake’s receding shoreline and restoring habitat for local birds, which have lost a reliable source of fish to eat due to the water’s increasing salinity. The dust has caused respiratory problems for residents in both Imperial and Eastern Riverside counties, while rising salinity in the lake has threatened food sources for local birds and other wildlife.
The $383 million plan calls for construction of 29,800 acres of ponds, wetlands and dust suppression projects to restore the lake, beginning with 500 acres in 2018, increasing to 4,200 acres by 2028.
More funding could come if voters approve a $4 billion ballot measure this June for parks and water projects, which includes $200 million for Salton Sea projects.