What is the Future of the Salton Sea?

In "The Desert We Want" webinar series, a panel of experts discuss why the Salton Sea is gaining traction again and what can come from it.

June 28, 2021
Story by Staff Report
salton sea

An aerial view of the Salton Sea, which continues to shrink in size and create more of a health hazard.

It’s probably hard to imagine that the Salton Sea once attracted more tourists in California than Yosemite National Park. But that was also more than 50 years ago when water sports, fishing, and swimming drew celebrities and the like to this unsuspecting body of water some 50+ miles southeast of Palm Springs.

Now the focus is on just trying to keep the Salton Sea from disappearing altogether and becoming a health hazard.

In “The Desert We Want” webinar series, a panel of experts explores the Salton Sea’s past, present, and future at noon June 30 during a free video presentation. The panel includes Riverside County Supervisor Manuel Perez; Patrick O’Dowd, executive director of the Salton Sea Authority; Rod Colwell, CEO of Controlled Thermal Resources, and Jonathan Weisgall, vice president of government relations for Berkshire Hathaway Energy.

Perez says he hopes to begin community engagement events possibly in the fall to discuss “not only the dust suppression efforts, but recreation and trail ways and amenities that people want to see. Economic development opportunities that can potentially bring more resources to the immediate area and create jobs, but at the same time, help us by mitigating and restoring the Salton Sea at the end of the day.”


The Salton Sea was once postcard-worthy as a recreational haven.

This outreach is to take advantage of the momentum growing around the Salton Sea after Proposition 68 passed in 2018, which authorized $4 billion in general obligation bonds for state and local parks, environmental protection and restoration projects, and more. The Salton Sea will receive $200 million to be directed to the lake’s south end. Another $19 million has been earmarked for the north end for the North Lake Demonstration Project near the town of North Shore, which has been heavily impacted by respiratory health issues resulting from blowing dust.

The webinar will also introduce viewers to O’Dowd and what role the Salton Sea Authority (SSA) has. O’Dowd says the SSA has limited resources to affect change at the Salton Sea and relies on county and state partners to step up and “tackle these challenges.” For its part, SSA has focused on assisting the communities around the Salton Sea.

“While we look at different options for addressing the sea proper, the communities around the sea have declined over the years,” O’Dowd says. “And as the sea rose and the fish died, people ran away from the properties and the values became depressed. And the people who moved into the property, are frankly, some of the most disadvantaged people in our region, if not our state. We’re looking to stem the tide of the erosion in the communities. And in fact, restore them to vital, livable communities that anybody would want to live in.”

The final two webinar panelists will bring viewers up to speed on the latest innovations either being proposed or underway, including the extraction of battery grade lithium from the brine. Lithium is powering the battery-powered electric vehicle market, and it is projected to growth substantially during this decade as electric vehicles become less of the fringe part of car buying and more of an affordable dominant mode of transportation.

Stay tuned for future “The Desert We Want” webinars. Visit palmspringslife.com/our-events/hot-purple-energys-the-desert-we-want.