Special to the Salton Sea Saw

I am writing to commend the Salton Seasaw for its coverage and commentary on the Salton Sea, a body of water that needs all the advocates it can get.

The Salton Sea is a real place to me and I have always seen it as a lake, because that’s what it is. I also see it as hydrologically, geographically and morally connected to the Colorado River, and I appreciate the effort to place the Salton Sea issue in the context of a broader discussion within the river community, which is where I think it belongs. 

I have never thought of the sea as an accident, and have been surprised to learn that so many of its critics still do.

Branding the Salton Sea an accident 118 years after the fact seems a lot like blaming the victim to me, as if the sea had some prior knowledge or played a part in its own “accidental” creation. The flood that overwhelmed the California Development Company came in stages and occurred over a period of weeks. The CDC system actually held through the first three waves, then failed during the fourth, a surge exponentially more powerful than the others and one sufficient, in my view, to reduce any manmade structure to bits and pieces.

If I am wrong, since I wasn’t there (and my time as a member of the Imperial Irrigation District Board of Directors only makes me feel as if I were), if the CDC was the cause of the flood that created the sea, then I will concede the point and say, “What now?”

As the IID director who represents the Salton Sea, my position is simple. Call it a rutabaga, if you like, but treat it as a real place that impacts real people’s lives, and make certain that you know what you’re talking about – especially if you’re going to talk or write about it as if you do.

A writer who didn’t heed that advice is Bill Hudson of the Pagosa Daily Post, who published a signed editorial some weeks ago on the Salton Sea, the Drought Contingency Plan and the Colorado River. He cited Wikipedia to buttress his accidental Salton Sea claim, and then, in one careless sentence, he implied (or allowed his readers to infer) that the California Development Company, a private land and water syndicate, and the IID, a public agency, are the same thing.

“The Imperial Irrigation District,” Hudson writes, “was once known as the Colorado (sic) Development Company, the folks who accidentally created the Salton Sea …”

For the record, IID was the antidote to the CDC, not its subsidiary.
He goes on to offer faint praise for the “500,000-acre agricultural paradise” that is the Imperial Valley, and for the size of IID’s annual entitlement from the river, which he lingers on, naturally. Still, the damage has been done to the Pagosa Daily Post’s credibility, as I see it, and Bill Hudson ought to post a correction to make it right.

That doesn’t mean he will, only that he should.

But if you live in the Imperial Valley, and you see that some out-of-town reporter or, worse, a politician called the Salton Sea an accident, just remember that they are reaching so far back in time that they aren’t just talking about the Salton Sea anymore.

They’re talking about the Imperial Valley, too.

And that isn’t on accident.