Controversial Agreement Yields Funding for Salton Sea Restoration

An unprecedented, but deeply controversial, agreement changes the equation for the Colorado River and the Salton Sea.

Read Time: 2 minutes

November 30, 2022, 11:00 AM PST

By James Brasuell @CasualBrasuell


The land locked Salton Sea, seen from the air, is surrounded by mountains, desert, and farm land.

Yunpeng Li / Shutterstock

The Imperial Irrigation District (IID) agreed to a landmark agreement that will leave some Colorado River water in place and fund large restoration projects on the troubled Salton Sea.

According to an article by Janet Wilson, the deal between IID and the U.S. Department of Interior, the California Natural Resources Agency, and the Coachella Valley Water District “could yield as much as $250 million for Salton Sea restoration projects.” In exchange, IID agrees not to use 250,000 acre-feet of Colorado River water.

“The vote came despite livid objections from Imperial County farmers and environmental groups, who questioned why such a major agreement was being voted on just 24 hours after it was made public, and four days before two newly elected board members are slated to be sworn in to the five-member panel,” according to Wilson.

Supporters of the agreement on the IID board say the deal yields the first fiscal support from federal and state agencies for Salton Sea restoration after years of water cuts.

“The sea is dependent on runoff from Colorado River water provided to farms along its shores for its continued existence. Since 2003, a series of agreements have diverted large amounts from the farms and the lake to urban areas,” explains Wilson.

The Colorado Rover is facing historic water shortages that threaten water supply for agricultural and urban users up and down the river’s massive watershed.

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