Monday, February 25, 2008

Promising news for birds at Salton Sea

Thanks to a nearby Indian tribe, birds at Salton Sea are benefitting from newly created wetlands. This Los Angeles Times article (registration required) reports on Debi Livesay's seven-year effort to revitalize the sea within the boundaries of the Torres Martinez Indian Reservation.

The Salton Sea, California's biggest lake, is saltier than the ocean and getting saltier all the time. Water agreements reached in 2003 mean Imperial Valley farmers will stop sending their runoff into the sea, causing it to shrink further and grow ever more saline. Scientists predict that, without drastic action, by 2015 the last of the sport fish will have died off. The 400 species of birds that nest there, including endangered species such as the California least tern and Yuma clapper rail, will leave soon after.

But while the state's plan is still on the drawing board, Livesay's is up and running.

"This is the first microcosm of what all of the rest of the plans call for around the sea," said Dan Parks, coordinator for the Salton Sea Authority. "Scientists have an idea of what they need, but there is a lot of stuff they can't get out of a textbook so you need to get in there and experiment."
Livesay's experiment looks promising. After creating islands and barriers, contractors filled and emptied ponds every day to remove salt. After two years, they filled the ponds, released fish and planted native palms. So far, so good.

Livesay wants to open the wetlands to the public in November. No doubt many birders hope that she can.

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