Riverside County supervisors Tuesday approved an aggregate $1.79 million in expenditures for a project to clear the Salton Sea north marina of dirt and debris to make the channel usable again by boaters who dock at the North Shore Beach & Yacht Club.
On a 4-0 vote, with Supervisor Jeff Hewitt away on personal business, the Board of Supervisors established the budget for the North Marina Dredging Project and signed off on professional services agreements tied to the enterprise.
The first phase will involve environmental studies conducted by La Quinta-based Dudek, whose biologists and technicians will analyze the effects of dredging on marine life, the impact of returning some of the water siphoned out of the sea during cleanup and water quality issues that could arise during and after the project.
Dudek’s work will cost about $141,000 and should begin in September, according to the firm’s compact with the quasi-governmental Salton Sea Authority and the county Economic Development Agency, which are proceeding jointly with the dredging project.
The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation is supplying nearly half the required funding, with the Salton Sea Authority drawing on other sources for the balance. The work is expected to conclude in the next fiscal year, though an exact timetable was not published.
According to the EDA, the marina, plagued by falling water levels from the dying sea, is clogged with sediment and other matter that will have to be removed before boats can safely utilize it.
Officials estimate that 17,000 cubic yards of muck will need to be suctioned out of the marina, covering about a 6.5-acre space. A 1,200-foot slurry line will be employed for some of the work.
Sorting out what strategies to engage for preservation of the Salton Sea has been a two-decade process lacking results.
Executive Office staff pointed out lat October that $25 million from Proposition 50 in 2006 was expended on research but no game plan for saving the sea. Similarly, $400 million from Proposition 84 in 2014 was earmarked for projects to mitigate environmental damage from the shrinking body of water, but there was nothing proactive done.
Proposition 66, a $4 billion water bond measure approved by voters in June 2018, set aside $200 million for sea projects. If the state continues to tarry without applying funds to a fix, evaporation will continue, exposing more lakebed and raising public health risks, according to the county.
Water reclamation by local agencies and Mexico, plus the loss of Colorado River supplies that originally fed the Salton Sea, have caused water levels to drop and salinity to spike.
For 15 years, the Coachella Valley Water District and the Imperial Irrigation District agreed to replenish some of the water drawn out of the sea in order to limit lakebed exposure, but that mitigation effort ended in January 2018, leaving the area’s future ecology in doubt.
Supervisor Manuel Perez has proposed an Enhanced Infrastructure Financing District to generate funding, by tax increment, for sea restoration, mainly on the Riverside County side of the water body, most of which is in Imperial County.
A meeting on the proposal is set for 11 a.m. on Oct. 15 at the yacht club, 9115 Sea View Drive in Mecca.