(Editors’ note: How did we do it? Even we aren’t sure, but we can say with virtual certainty that the following exclusive interview between an editor of this journal and a man on the telephone claiming to be the Voice of the Salton Sea at least approximates something like the truth …)
Why have you chosen to come forward now?
I have been reading your blog and want to support what you’re trying to do with it. Plus, it’s not as if you didn’t bring this on yourself by posting and reposting the same question, almost as if it were an incantation, “If the Salton Sea could speak for itself, what would it say?”
I’m going to tell you what the Salton Sea does say, not what it might say.
Because you are the Voice of the Salton Sea?
What does that mean? Is it like being a spokesman or a press agent?
No need to get huffy or adversarial about it. I’m not asking you what Seasaw means, am I? I am the Voice of the Salton Sea and no one can dispute the veracity or fundamental accuracy of that statement. Do you know another Voice of the Salton Sea?
I don’t know any other Voices, from anywhere.
There you go!
And you want to go on the record?
I want to correct the record.
OK, how do you respond to the idea that the Salton Sea is an accidental lake?
Ah, yes, the “terrible accident.” I think when people say that they are either in a state of willful ignorance or living in the past. You could get away with dismissing the Salton Sea as an accident a century ago, maybe even a terrible one, but not today. Not in California.
Actually, there is nothing terrible about the Salton Sea, other than the horrible way it has been treated all these years. Do you know how many official studies and academic papers have been done on fixing the Salton Sea? Thousands of them, and they go back for decades.
Study anything for that long and it becomes an elaborate ruse for running out the clock.
The Salton Sea is resplendent with wetlands and habitat and just happens to be attached to the largest irrigation district in the nation, the Imperial Irrigation District. It is, in fact, the terminus of the IID’s water delivery system and an extension of the Colorado River system on which IID and its water users in the Imperial Valley exclusively rely.
All of which sounds pretty purposeful to me.
Do you think that other water users in the seven basin states see the Salton Sea the way you do, as an extension of the Colorado River system?
Some of them do, but not all. What its critics forget is that drought and the effects of climate change are as hard on the Salton Sea as they have been on the Colorado River. The difference with the sea is that you have to factor in the 2003 Quantification Settlement Agreement and the nation’s largest agricultural-to-urban water transfer.
That transfer of conserved water from the farms and fields of the Imperial Valley to the coastal plain is now so caught up in the process of carving out a future for the sea that it is hard not to think of them as co-equal goals. While it didn’t start out that way, the Salton Sea has become, in effect, a litmus test for the QSA, and its timekeeper.
What about Rep. Tom McClintock’s assertion that the sea isn’t worth saving, and how prevalent is that opinion, do you think?
I think that when people reach a certain age, they shouldn’t try to pass themselves off as cool anymore. When I saw the video of him saying “WTF” about the Salton Sea, I thought to myself, What the f— is it with this guy?
Could he be unaware that the Salton Sea is the biggest lake in the state – his state? Doesn’t he realize that doing nothing at the sea is the surest way to blow up the QSA? Why did no one tell him that the Salton Sea is a ticking public-health time bomb?
Those were my thoughts at the time he made his remarks, but I now believe the congressman did the Salton Sea a favor by sharing his contempt for it. For one thing, his views on the subject were extreme, even for him; for another, he came off as a jackass.
Scoreboard, Salton Sea.
What makes you so confident about the Salton Sea’s prospects for the future?
The future of the Salton Sea, in contrast with its past and despite the many challenges it faces going forward, is all upside. It may not seem like it right now, but you have to take the long view in this business and, as I see it, something will eventually give.
There are just too many irresistible forces encircling the same immovable object for reason not to break out and enlightened self-interest to prevail.
You’re not concerned that such a breakthrough might come too late for the Salton Sea?
I tend to think of it more as an honest reckoning, and I don’t see how it can come soon enough for the Colorado River.
(to be continued …)