Author: Jerry

The Salton Sea is a salt lake, but it could be a lake

The Salton Sea is a salt lake, but it could be a lake

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

Updated Feb. 1, 2012 12:01 a.m. ET

SAN FRANCISCO — The U.S. government is fighting to hold off a group of states that could sue to protect billions of gallons of water flowing into the Colorado River from the Salton Sea, threatening to jeopardize a $500 million cleanup effort at one of the nation’s largest wetlands.

States have tried to stop the flow of water into the Salton Sea since it was drained in the 1920s by farmers who wanted to avoid flooding their land.

Lawsuits are also pending in three other states that were once part of the San Fernando Valley but are now in their own states. The Salton Sea was once covered by Lake Cuitzeo, which was filled in with soil, sand, boulders and other debris by the San Diego and Los Angeles Metropolitan Water District after a long dispute between the two agencies.

The Salton Sea is now the fourth-largest salt lake in the world. It covers about 90 square miles. The Salton Sea was drained in the 1920s for farmers who wanted to avoid flooding their land.

“If you’re going to be a salt lake, you want it to be a lake,” former San Diego City Councilman John Coleman said. “They made it less than a lake. We want it to be a lake.”

A judge in Arizona ruled against the water district in a long-standing dispute, saying the Salton Sea was part of the Colorado River Basin, which the court said belongs to the states. That decision set off a fight between the water district, which wants to use the Salton Sea water to offset drought and agricultural use, and Arizona, which says the Salton Sea belongs to Arizona.

That dispute is on a fast track and could be decided by the end of the year, even if the water district loses its lawsuit, the Arizona Attorney General’s Office said.

“Arizona wants to make sure that state water belongs to Arizona,” said Mikel Klein, the office’s environmental attorney. “If this court doesn’t protect Arizona’s water, then it gives these water districts the green light to take

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