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IID Board Analyses Bombay Beach Project That Will Help the Salton Sea

-Editorial

The Imperial Irrigation District Board of Directors heard a presentation about the future of the Bombay Beach Wetland Project Proposal at their regular meeting held March 16.

Audubon California, a non-profit group, received a federal grant to develop and design a multi-benefit habitat enhancement and dust control demonstration project at the Salton Sea in support of on-going restoration and mitigation efforts. Their proposed project will total approximately 200 acres and would be located on federal and IID-owned property on the southeastern shore of the sea. This is about two miles east of Bombay Beach, in a wetland area created where the shoreline has receded and the convergence of desert washes and groundwater discharges now provide habitat for water birds and algal-based invertebrates. This emergent wetland continues to expand to the south as the Sea’s elevation declines, while the higher quality habitat is competing with invasive and water-thirsty Tamarisk plants. 

Audubon’s project objective is largely to preserve and expand the existing naturally created wetland habitat through the development of a retention basin to capture and hold freshwater from occasional storm events that now breach the existing wetland capacity, created by naturally occurring berms, and then drain into the sea. This would allow for additional ponded water and shallow groundwater recharge at the site, and the habitat itself would provide a secondary dust suppression benefit for the parcel. 

The project also proposes the periodic management of the area through the removal of invasive species and the use of low-impact enhancement and preservation techniques to support and potentially expand the habitat as the sea continues to recede.

Audubon representatives Andrea Jones and Frank Ruiz presented a detailed overview of the proposed project. It was informed that Audubon is currently selecting the design concept in consultation with stakeholder and community input, performing biological resource studies, engineering analyses, and preparing the design. Work is being conducted under a $700,000 grant from the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, in cooperation with other agencies and landowners, and coordination with Imperial Irrigation District.

Preliminary design components under consideration are the retention basin to prevent flood damage and spread of Tamarisk seeds, and infiltrate water into the shallow groundwater table that sustains the wetlands; low impact structures to spread excess water on the play and promote new vegetation growth; protection and maintenance of existing habit areas; enhancement of future habitat areas on the new playa as the sea recedes; and construction of an access road trails and a viewing platform.

Community meetings will be held to discuss and gather feedback on potential project design alternatives and develop public access ideas. Access to the project may be available via the improvement of an existing dirt road from the Niland Boat Ramp along the 2002 shoreline berm. Public viewing, trail, and platform areas will be discussed and integrated into the project design.

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