Salton Sea Management Program

Overview

The Salton Sea is California's largest lake, and is located in the Salton Basin (part of the Colorado River delta) at an elevation of approximately 228 feet below sea level. The Salton Sea watershed encompasses an area of approximately 8,000 square miles from San Bernardino County to the Mexicali Valley. The Salton Sea lies at the lowest point in the Salton Basin and collects runoff and agricultural drainage from most of Imperial County, a portion of Riverside County, smaller portions of San Bernadino and San Diego Counties, as well as the northern portion of the Mexicali Valley in Baja California, Mexico.

Over the past millennia, the meandering Colorado River periodically filled the Salton Basin, creating ancestral freshwater lakes that ultimately evaporated. The Salton Sea was formed in 1905 when massive flooding caused the Colorado River to break through an irrigation canal to flow uncontrolled directly into the Salton Basin for 18 months. After the breach in the irrigation canal was fixed, the Salton Sea has been primarily sustained by agricultural drain water, approximately 80 percent of which flows from the Imperial Valley. However, inflow into the Sea has declined over the past several decades, causing the water level to recede. This has led to increased salinity and concentrated nutrients from farm runoff, both of which create inhospitable conditions for animal life. The Sea is currently approximately 50 percent saltier than the ocean, and overgrowth of plant life due to nutrient pollution is depleting its oxygen levels. Many species now depend on the Salton Sea ecosystem: it is home to many species of fish and is a critical stop on the Pacific Flyway for migrating birds, including several threatened and endangered species.

Further, receding water levels create public health risks for nearby residents due to air pollution from dust particles released from the previously submerged lakebed. With no natural outlet, decades of agricultural and wastewater accumulation are embedded in the Sea’s now-exposed soils. As the Sea continues to shrink, more of this particulate matter that contains dangerous pollutants will be released into the air.

The Governor’s Salton Sea Task Force was established in 2015 with the goal of addressing and remediating these issues, and launched the Salton Sea Management Program (SSMP) in 2018. The SSMP is comprised of three state agencies: the California Natural Resources Agency (CNRA), the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW), and the State Water Board. As a member of this Task Force, the State Water Board regularly monitors and assesses progress on the implementation of the SSMP and is responsible for hosting an annual public workshop to provide updates and an opportunity for public input.

For more information about the Salton Sea Management Program, please visit this website: http://saltonsea.ca.gov/

For more information about the Colorado River Regional Water Quality Control Board's activities regarding water quality in and around the Salton Sea, please visit this website: https://www.waterboards.ca.gov/coloradoriver/water_issues/programs/salton_sea/

Subscribe to the Water Boards’ email subscription service for updates on current issues regarding Water Board activities in and around the Salton Sea.
Subscribe to the California Natural Resources Agency’s email subscription service for updates on Salton Sea projects and other Salton Sea activities.
For questions or requests for documents listed on this webpage, please contact Stephanie Holstege at stephanie.holstege@waterboards.ca.gov .

Announcements

This section contains links to important information related to the Salton Sea Management Program. Please check this section periodically for the latest information.

The next workshop on the status of Phase 1 of the Salton Sea Management Program is planned for late May 2023 and is expected to be held as a hybrid meeting in the Salton Sea region. Check back here regularly for updates as the date approaches.

Salton Sea Management Program Phase 1 Workshops

The State Water Board has held public workshops to receive oral and written comments on the status of the Salton Sea Management Program including a report from the California Natural Resources Agency identifying; (i) completed projects and milestones achieved in the prior year; (ii) amount of acreage of completed projects that provide dust suppression and habitat, broken down by habitat type; (iii) upcoming projects to be completed and milestones to be achieved prior to the next annual progress report; (iv) the status of financial resources and permits that have not been secured for future projects; (v) any anticipated departures from the dates and acreages identified in condition 24 of water right order WR 2017-0134; and progress toward development of the long‐range plan described in condition 26 of water right order WR 2017-0134.

The State Water Board held a hybrid public workshop on April 20, 2022 on the Status of Phase 1 of the Salton Sea Management Program. The Workshop was held in-person at the Cal EPA building in Sacramento and virtually, to receive oral and written comments on the status of the Salton Sea Management Program including a report from the California Natural Resources Agency pursuant to Water Board Order WR 2017-0134.

The State Water Board held a workshop on the Phase 1 of the SSMP on April 7, 2022, rescheduled from March 17th, 2021. The workshop was rescheduled to provide the public and stakeholders additional time to review and provide comments on the California Natural Resources Agency’s 2021 Salton Sea Management Program Annual Report. The Salton Sea workshop was held as agenda item number 8.

  • Workshop Video l (Spanish)
  • Workshop Agenda
  • Comment letters received:
    • Active Climate Rescue Initiative
    • American Federation of Government Employees National Border Patrol Council
    • Bureau of Land Management – El Centro Field Office,
    • Citizens United for Resources and the Environment
    • City of Cathedral City
    • City of Desert Hot Springs
    • City of Indian Wells
    • City of Palm Desert
    • City of Palm Springs
    • City of Rancho Mirage
    • Comite Civico del Valle
    • EcoMedia Compass (Kerry Morrison)
    • EcoMedia Compass (Tom Sephton)
    • General Public:
      • Christopher Cockroft
      • Chuck Parker
      • Daphne Ramirez
      • Felicitas Nunez
      • Jasmyn Phillips
      • Linda Salas
      • Susan (last name illegible)
      • Vianey Holguin
    • Geothermal Worldwide, Inc.
    • Imperial County Air Pollution Control District
    • Imperial County Farm Bureau
    • Pacific Institute, Kounkuey Design Initiative, Environmental Defense Fund, Audubon, Leadership Counsel for Justice and Accountability, Sierra Club California, Defenders of Wildlife, Alianza Coachella Valley, Loma Linda University School of Public Health
    • People Over Pollution
    • Riverside County & Imperial County Residents
    • Salton Sea Authority
    • Salton Sea Coalition
    • San Diego County Water Authority
    • The New Water Group
    • University of California, Irvine - Steele/Burnand Anza-Borrego Desert Research Center
    • West Shores Resident
  • Board Meeting Agenda (April 6-7th)
  • REVISED Workshop Notice | Aviso de Taller Revisado
  • Board Meeting Agenda (March 16-17th)
  • California Natural Resources Agency’s 2021 Annual Report on the Salton Sea Management Program (Spanish Report)
  • Board Meeting Agenda (March 16-17th)
  • Notice of Public Workshop | (Spanish)
  • The State Water Board held a virtual public workshop on August 19, 2020, which was originally planned to be held on March 18, 2020 but was cancelled due to the COVID-19 emergency.Workshop Video
  • REVISED Workshop Agenda
  • California Natural Resources Agency update letter
  • Comment letters received:
    • Agess, Inc.
    • Assembly California Legislature, 56th Assembly District
    • Alianza Coachella Valley, Audubon California, Coachella Valley Waterkeeper, Defenders of Wildlife, Environmental Defense Fund, Kounkuey Design Initiative, Leadership Counsel for Justice and Accountability, Pacific Institute, and Sierra Club California (Joint Letter)
    • Campesinos Unidos, Inc., CNC, Coalicion de Buena Salud y Bienestar, Comite’ Civico deal Valle, Inc., Imperial Valley Community Health Coalition, Imperial Valley Equity and Justice Coalition, La Union Hace la Fuerza, Los Amigos De La Comunidad, Our Roots Multicultural Center, and Promotores Comunitarios Del Desierto (Joint Letter)
    • Courageous Resistance of the Desert
    • General Public:
      • Christopher Cockroft
      • Christopher Cockroft (second letter)
      • Elaine Loreto
      • Homer Lesihau
      • Jasmyn Phillips
      • Maria Pozar
      • Nicole Saari
      • Pam Eckert
      • Samantha Reece
      • Sandy Contreras
      • Tom Sephton
    • InterContinental IP
    • Salton Sea Coalition
    • Salton Sea Coalition (second letter)
    • Salton Sea Landowners Association
    • The EcoMedia Compass
  • Workshop Agenda
  • Board Meeting Agenda
  • California Natural Resources Agency 2020 Annual Report on the Salton Sea Management Program (Spanish Report)
  • Notice of Public Workshop (Spanish Notice)

The March 18, 2020 workshop on the status of Phase 1 of the Salton Sea Management Program was cancelled due to the COVID-19 emergency and was rescheduled and held on August 19, 2020.

  • Comment Letters Received:
    • Assembly member Eduardo Garcia
    • Concerned Citizens of the Coachella Valley
    • Chuck Parker
    • Felicitas Nunez
    • Jasmyn Phillips
    • Nikola Lakic
    • Robert Terry
    • Tom Sephton
    • Leadership Council for Justice and Accountability and the Eastern Coachella Valley residents
    • Joint letter by Pacific Institute, Kounkuey Design Initiative, Environmental Defense Fund, Audubon California, Leadership Council for Justice and Accountability, Sierra Club California, Defenders of Wildlife, Alianza Coachella Valley, and Loma Linda University School of Public Health
  • Board Meeting Agenda
  • California Natural Resources Agency 2020 Annual Report on the Salton Sea Management Program
  • REVISED Notice of Public Workshop
  • Notice of Public Workshop

At its regularly scheduled meeting on June 18, 2019, the State Water Board heard an informational item consisting of a status update on Phase 1 of the Salton Sea Management Program from the California Natural Resources Agency pursuant to Water Board Order WR 2017-0134.

  • Agenda for June 18, 2019 Board Meeting

At its regularly scheduled meeting on March 19, 2019, the State Water Board held a public workshop to receive oral and written comments on the status of Salton Sea Restoration The workshop was held at the North Shore Beach and Yacht Club in North Shore, CA.

At its regularly scheduled meeting on October 16, 2018, the State Water Board heard an informational item consisting of a status update on Phase 1 of the Salton Sea Management Program from Bruce Wilcox, Assistant Secretary for Salton Sea Policy, California Natural Resources Agency pursuant to Water Board Order WR 2017-0134.

  • California Natural Resources Agency's Presentation
  • Department of Water Resources Proposed Staff Organizational Chart
  • Public Comments
  • Agenda for October 16, 2018 Board Meeting
  • Letter to Bruce Wilcox, Assistant Secretary for Salton Sea Policy, California Natural Resources Agency, regarding information to present before the State Water Board for future updates on the status of the Salton Sea Management Program (Dated May 22, 2018)

At its regularly scheduled meeting on March 20, 2018, the State Water Board heard an informational item consisting of a status update on Phase 1 of the Salton Sea Management Program from Bruce Wilcox, Assistant Secretary for Salton Sea Policy, California Natural Resources Agency pursuant to Water Board Order WR 2017-0134.

  • Follow-up letter submitted by the Pacific Institute, Audubon California, Defenders of Wildlife, and Sierra Club California (Dated April 2, 2018)
  • Meeting Video
  • California Natural Resources Agency's Presentation
  • Public Comments
  • Agenda for March 20, 2018 Board Meeting

Development of Order WR 2017-013

On November 7, 2017, the State Water Board adopted the proposed Order Revising State Water Board Order WRO 2002-0013 after holding a public hearing at its regularly scheduled meeting.

  • Press Release: State Water Board Adopts Order on Long-Term Management of Salton Sea
  • Order WR 2017-0134 - (Spanish Version) - In the Matter of the Petition of Imperial Irrigation District regarding State Water Board Revised Order WRO 2002-0013 - Order Accepting Stipulation and Revising State Water Board Revised Order WRO 2002-0013
  • Workshop Video
  • Public Comments
  • Revised Notice of Public Hearing, Opportunity for Public Comment and Adoption Meeting
  • Notice of Public Hearing, Opportunity for Public Comment and Adoption Meeting
  • Proposed Draft Order with Exhibit A
    • Version showing changes from August 11, 2017 draft
  • March 15, 2017 Motion of Imperial Irrigation District for Evidentiary Hearing

The State Water Board held a public workshop to receive information and solicit public input regarding the Salton Sea Management Program and Draft Stipulated Order for Future Action by the Board at its regularly scheduled meeting.

  • Workshop Video
  • Public Comments
  • Agenda for the September 6-7, 2017 Meeting and Workshop
  • Notice of Public Workshop
  • August 11, 2017 Draft Stipulated Order
  • March 15, 2017 Motion of Imperial Irrigation District for Evidentiary Hearing

The State Water Board held a public workshop during a regularly scheduled State Water Board meeting on November 15, 2016 to receive information and solicit public input regarding the status of the Salton Sea Management Program.

  • Workshop Video
  • Public Comments
  • Agenda for the November 15, 2016 Meeting and Workshop
  • Notice of Public Workshop

At its regularly scheduled meeting on August 16, 2016, the State Water Board heard an informational item consisting of an update on the Salton Sea Management Program from Bruce Wilcox, Assistant Secretary for Salton Sea Policy, California Natural Resources Agency.

  • Meeting Video
  • Public Comments
  • Agenda for the August 16, 2016 Board Meeting

The State Water Board held a public workshop at their regularly scheduled Board Meeting on April 19, 2016 to receive information and solicit public input regarding the status of the Salton Sea Management Program.

  • Workshop Video
  • Public Comments
  • Agenda for the April 19-20, 2016 Meeting and Workshop
  • Notice of Public Workshop

The State Water Board held a public workshop at their regularly scheduled Board Meeting on January 5, 2016 to receive an update from four agencies and received input from the public regarding the status of agency actions identified by the Salton Sea Task Force.

  • Workshop Video
  • Public Comments
  • Agenda for the January 5-6, 2016 Meeting and Workshop
  • Notice of Public Workshop

March 18, 2015 Workshop (dropdown)

The State Water Board held a public workshop on March 18, 2015 to receive information and solicit public input regarding the provisions of the State Water Board's decision relating to the Salton Sea and revised order WRO 2002-0013, and whether the State Water Board should take further actions to address the Salton Sea's future.

  • Workshop Video (Part 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9)
  • Public Comments
  • Agenda for the March 17-18, 2015 Meeting and Workshop
  • Notice of Public Workshop

On November 18, 2014, Imperial Irrigation District submitted a petition for modification of Revised Order WRO 2002-0013.

  • Petition of Imperial Irrigation District for Modification of Revised Order WRO 2002-0013
    • Petition
    • Cover Letter
    • Appendix Volume 1
    • Appendix Volume 2

The State Water Board has received the following letters concerning the Petition of the Imperial Irrigation District:

  • Audubon California, Defenders of Wildlife, Pacific Institute, and Sierra Club California
  • Salton Sea Authority
  • The Coalition of Labor, Agriculture and Business
  • Imperial Valley Vegetable Growers Association
  • Imperial County Building and Construction Trades Council
  • Regional Governmental Affairs Committee of the Brawley and El Centro Chambers of Commerce
  • Imperial County Board of Supervisors
  • Eduardo Garcia, State Assemblymember, 56th District
  • Raul Ruiz, M.D., Member of Congress, 36th District, California
  • Juan Vargas, Member of Congress, 51st District, California
  • Ben Hueso, State Senator, 40th District
  • Imperial Irrigation District

On October 28, 2002, the State Water Board issued Water Rights Order (WRO) 2002 - 0013 which approved the long-term transfer of water from the Imperial Irrigation District (IID) to the San Diego County Water Authority, the Coachella Valley Water District, and the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California. On December 20, 2002, the State Water Board issued Order WRO 2002-0016, which revised Order WRO 2002-0013.

On November 18, 2014, IID filed a Petition for Change seeking modification of Revised Order WRO 2002-0013. In May 2015, Governor Edmund G. Brown, Jr. established the Salton Sea Task Force to identify realistic short- and medium-term goals to respond to potential air quality and ecological impacts resulting from reduced flows of fresh water to the Salton Sea. As a part of the Salton Sea Task Force, the State Water Board regularly monitored and assessed progress on the implementation of the Salton Sea Task Force’s SSMP. On November 7, 2017, the State Water Board adopted Order WRO 2017-0134 amending revised Order WRO 2002-0013 to incorporate additional conditions that set forth specific restoration milestones to address public health and environmental concerns within Phase 1 of the SSMP.

WRO 2017-0134 requires that the State Water Board hold a public meeting during each year of Phase 1 of the SSMP to receive oral and written comment on the status of Salton Sea restoration. The order also requires a report from the California Natural Resources Agency (CNRA), due annually by March 31, to identify:

  • completed projects and milestones achieved in the prior year;
  • amount of acreage of completed projects that provide dust suppression and habitat restoration, broken down by habitat type;
  • upcoming projects to be completed and milestones to be achieved prior to the next annual progress report;
  • the status of financial resources and permits that have not been secured for future projects;
  • Any anticipated departures from the dates and acreages identified in condition 24 of the order (see table 1);
  • progress toward development of the long‐range plan described in condition 26 of the order, and;
  • in the event an annual milestone shortfall exceeds 20 percent of a year’s annual obligation, a plan that will cure the deficiency within 12 months.

Specific restoration milestones to address public health and environmental concerns within Phase 1 of the SSMP.

Year Total acreage of habitat and dust-suppression projects that shall be completed each year (annual milestones). Cumulative acreage to be completed by the end of each year.
2018 500 500
2019 1,300 1,800
2020 1,700 3,500
2021 3,500 7,000
2022 1,750 8,750
2023 2,750 11,500
2024 2,700 14,200
2025 3,400 17,600
2026 4,000 21,600
2027 4,000 25,600
2028 4,200 29,800

Orders Approving the Long-Term Transfer of Water from Imperial Irrigation District

On October 28, 2002, the State Water Board issued Order WRO 2002-0013. On December 20, 2002, the State Water Board revised Order WRO 2002-0013 with the issuance of Order WRO 2002-0016. Revised Order WRO 2002-0013 approved the long-term transfer of up to 300,000 acre-feet of water per year authorized for diversion and use from the Colorado River under Imperial Irrigation District's water right permit 7643 as follows: (1) 200,000 acre-feet of water per year from Imperial Irrigation District to San Diego County Water Authority; and (2) 100,000 acre-feet of water per year from Imperial Irrigation District to Coachella Valley Water District and Metropolitan Water District of Southern California. The approved transfer was for a term of 45 years with an optional 30-year renewal period, for a total of 75 years.

Besides the State Water Board’s involvement with the Salton Sea, there are many other state, federal, and local organizations that have interests in the discussions, planning, and implementation of actions and projects occurring at the Salton Sea. A list of these organization is maintained by the State Water Board and provides information of each of the organization’s role, responsibility, or focus within the Salton Sea including websites.

See this document for a description of organizations involved in the Salton Sea rganizations Involved in the Salton Sea (Spanish)
Below is a list of available contacts for those organizations listed in the above document. Spaces that are blank are blank intentionally because no information is available at the current time. The list below will be updated as information changes or becomes available.

Organizations Contact Name Contact information
Imperial Irrigation District   info@iid.com
Coachella Valley Water District    
San Diego County Water Authority Darren Simon dsimon@sdcwa.org
Metropolitan Water District of Southern California    
Salton Sea Authority   saltonsea.com
Imperial County    
Riverside County Linsey Dale Linseydale@co.imperial.ca.us
Imperial County Air Pollution Control District    
South Coast Air Quality Management District    
California Natural Resources Agency   cnra-saltonsea@resources.ca.gov
California Department of Water Resources   cnra-saltonsea@resources.ca.gov
California Department of Fish and Wildlife   cnra-saltonsea@resources.ca.gov
California State Parks, Salton Sea State Recreation Area    
California Air Resources Board    
State Water Resources Control Board Stephanie Holstege Stephanie.holstege@waterboards.ca.gov
Colorado River Regional Water Quality Control Board    
Colorado River Board    
U.S. Bureau of Reclamation Genevieve Johnson gjohnson@usbr.gov
U.S. Army Corps of Engineers    
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service    
U.S. Bureau of Land Management    
Torres Martinez Desert Cahuilla Indians    
Twenty-Nine Palms Band of Mission Indians   admin@29palmsbomi-nsn.gov
Cabazon Band of Mission Indians    
Alianza Coachella Valley    
Audubon California Frank Ruiz Frank.Ruiz@audubon.org
Comite Civivo del Valle   contact@ccvhealth.org
Defenders of Wildlife Pamela Flick pflick@defenders.org
Environmental Defense Fund    
Kounkuey Design Initiative   mail@kounkuey.org
Leadership Council for Justice and Accountability Rebecca Zaragoza rzaragoza@leadershipcounsel.org
Pacific Institute Michael Cohen mcohen@pacinst.org
Sierra Club   Brandon.dawson@sierraclub.org, Jenny.binstock@sierraclub.org, or palmcanyon@mac.com

Other Relevant Water Board Programs

Additional relevant Water Board webpages are linked below:

Government Agencies

Links to federal, state, local and tribal programs related to Salton Sea conservation and management:

Education and Research

Salton Sea research and education resources:

Nonprofits

Salton Sea resources from nonprofit organizations:

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Contact Us

Questions about Salton Sea activities can be directed to:

 

Stephanie Holstege
Senior Environmental Scientist, Specialist
Stephanie.holstege@waterboards.ca.gov