Kathy Dice, former Superintendent of the Salton Sea State Park, 03/2005-01/2011

Excerpt taking from the Foreword

"As photographed by the orbiting space station, Salton Sea looks like a large sapphire lodged in an otherwise dry landscape.  Looking east across the badlands in Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, the Sea beckons like a still sparkling jewel.  At water’s edge, the gemstone image is interrupted by ghostly structures and impressions of past lives invading the senses.  But, to spend time with the Salton Sea is to discover its true value for both people and wildlife.
I encountered this strange and wonderful place first as a visitor and many years later as an advocate.  The issues surrounding the Sea’s existence and its stark beauty captivated me until I could no longer resist its pull. From my first day as Park Superintendent of Salton Sea State Recreation Area on the north shore of the Sea, I have been on a voyage of discovery far more fascinating than I had bargained for, becoming immersed in the lore, uncovering abundant curiosities and mysteries and enjoying the rhythm of the seasons.  Delighting in the sights and sounds of hundreds of species of birds, mingling with the pelicans by kayak, watching children catch their very first fish, enjoying spectacular sunsets and moonlit nights of bioluminescent waters have all become chapters in my life here."

Steve Johnson, Volunteer, Salton Sea History Museum

"It’s kind of a very unique area and you have everything. If you want to have snow, its a 45 minute drive and if you don’t like the snow, here you are in the nice warm desert, and the vistas make your eyes dance. Mine anyway. And the wildlife, well, I won’t talk about those people.

It’s the largest lake in California, about 48 ft deep out here and I just love it. Everyone that comes out here loves it and that means a lot, that people see what I see when they’ve heard so much controversy. It has been so maligned over the years with incorrect information and wild stories about it and that’s part of what we are trying to do at the museum, is educate people."

 Al Kalin, Farmer

"In the mid-60’s the Cattle Egret migrated into the area and that was an interest­ing bird because up until then we had a lot of problems with crickets; they were so thick they would cover the streets and the walls in the houses and outside the houses. You’d go to a restau­rant and they would be crawling up walls and on your plate, and the people who lived here got used to them. You could always tell the tourists coming through cause they’d scream and hol­ler with these crickets everywhere. Then in the late 60’s the Egret arrived and within 10 years they had almost completely wiped out the crickets.
And to this day they still provide a service for us. When we ir­rigate a field and the water is advancing down the field, it runs in the cracks and the crickets come up and that’s where the Cattle Egrets wait for the crickets to pop up and eat them. That’s a major change to our local ecology. Like I say, the Salton Sea is always changing and seldom goes back to the way it was."

Pat Flanagan, Curriculum Writer 

"In the process I came across the original explorers: William Blake, 1853 railway expedition, Godfrey Sykes and then of course all the non-scientists who came across to get gold. Then Anza, whose trip from Mexico to San Francisco was longer than Lewis and Clark’s and more dangerous, he took more people with him. He had a thousand head of stock that he took with him and although they lost a lot of the stock, they only lost one person but they gained three, as there were three births. And there were some 200 people on the trip through the desert. When Anza was there it was the coldest year, the snowiest year ever on record, it was so darn cold and these people had almost no way of protecting themselves."

Jeni Bate, Artist 

"I get people coming to my art booth and looking at the paintings of the dawns and sunsets and going:

‘Wow, oh isn’t that beautiful, where do you live?’ 
Salton City.’ ‘
"Oh! Why do you live there?’ 
Point at the paintings: 
‘Dawn off the Back Porch, Sunset off the Front Porch…'
I also get, ‘I have heard of that place but I have never been there, or ‘I used to go there in the fifties’ or ‘Isn’t that a disgusting place’ or ‘Where is it?’ So I do a lot of education out there."

Michael Cohen, Project Manager, Pacific Institute

"The problem is that the sea is what has been called a creep­ing environmental problem. People realize that there is a slow change occurring at the Salton Sea, in the backs of their minds. State and federal officials know that there is going to be a catastrophe in the future. But the problem is getting people to see what is out here now and visualizing the future and what it’s going to be like. 

It’s only seven years away (Ed. note, interview took place 2011) before that real change will start to happen. The Aral Sea is a classic example of a creeping environ­mental problem: slow, gradual change and, day to day, people don’t see that much change, but then the dust storms start to pick up and crops start to die and people’s health is impaired and then at some point somebody says we need to do some­thing."

 Chris Schoneman, Project Manager, Sonny Bono NWR

 "Our role here is providing wildlife habitat and keeping wildlife coming down here year after year. That’s a valuable part of the local economy, it attracts thousands of birdwatchers here each year. They all buy gas, they go to the local stores to buy picnic foods and leave money. We requested a study to help analyse what the economic impact of this refuge is having on the valley and it was estimated that in an average year, the birdwatchers are probably leaving behind somewhere between $700k-800k dollars a year to local business and probably somewhere in the area of $70000 to local taxes that go to the county.

There are a lot of interests in the Salton Sea. Each community has an interest in the Salton Sea, they want to make sure there is water at their shoreline and that it doesn’t evaporate away and leave a skeleton of a sea which used to be there. The county has an interest, the wildlife agen­cies, and the energy people and then there’s the Tribe."

 Ed Hoffman, Resident, Salton City

 "Then in the early ‘80’s my grandpa Jack Hall & wife Millie were at a land auction in San Bernardino and picked up a lot over on North Marina. One weekend him and the wife came down to check it out. They hit a couple of “watering troughs” and within a couple of weekends knew some of the friendliest people and knew more folks than they did at home in Fontana after forty years! They built a little place and sold everything & became full-time residents real quick. Well, the rest of us followed. First as a weekend hang out then as property owners, as we also grabbed our piece of heaven. Combination of off-roading, fishing and boating and some of the greatest friendliest folks in California. How could you go wrong?"

George Mohoff, Resident and Powered Paraglider, Salton City

 "Well, there is no money for the restoration of the sea. And I think that they have money for their own houses but not for the Salton Sea. Over there in Malibu and Beverly Hills, that is where the money is, but not here. As there aren’t too many rich people round here, and as there is no money in it for them, they don’t care. If there were money to be made, this place would be beau­tiful. But they don’t see it, they don’t care. They can be blind as it is out of sight, out of mind. Though, as it happens, I do like that there aren’t many people here and the desert and the mountains.
[...] The most important thing is education, for all Americans, for the kids even more so, so that they become environmentalists, which would be so important for this lake and for the region. Education is necessary for the possibility that this lake will survive."

 Jennifer Nicholas and Steven Sanchez, Residents, Salton City

"Jennifer: It’s not a well-known place. And there’s not been any cam­paigns, like the ‘Save Lake Tahoe, Keep Lake Tahoe clean’ one. I saw that in the Bay area where I was growing up, and they really pushed it and nobody is pushing the Salton Sea on anyone to care. It’s just natural if it’s on the news, that people will remem­ber that and then if they hear about it again, they’ll know more."

 Jennie Kelley, Museum Director, Salton Sea History Museum

"I would love to have this become a tourist destination once again. The many communities around the sea have been dev­astated from all of the flooding that occurred over the years. We need that visitation to bring back jobs, infrastructure and prosperity to the area. 

Let’s not forget that we also need to pre­serve the fishery for the approximately 400 species of migratory birds that use this stopover on the Pacific Flyway. Without it we may be looking at the extinction of some of those species. Doing nothing will result in an ecological and economic disaster to both Riverside and Imperial County."

 Johanna Wickman, Former Museum Manager, La Quinta Museum

"Because everyday that goes by, it gets smaller and it will hang over our heads and I just hope that someone out there really starts to take it seriously and understands the consequence of not doing anything seriously. And also realizing that it has potential. Once you realize that then you can get money to start investing in it. It’s one of those things, it’s all about the money.

And not to mention that should the lake dry up, that dust is a health hazard and there are regulations about how many par­ticles of dust are allowed in the air within the desert communi­ties and it is a very real issue. They all form the Coachella Valley, and they are all interconnected, and what happens to one city will affect the others. Every day you wait, it will get more diffi­cult to solve. The problem is not going to miraculously go away."

Kris Reynolds, Videographer, former Resident, Salton City
 "I want to hit a new audience through new media to show them what this place is really about. You’ve had a couple of documen­taries made in the past, some of them aren’t very well known. It’s a high profile subject but its broadcast on a very low profile basis.

What really interests me about this place is the potential for renewable energy and that seems to be something that is over­looked by so many people. And I have heard one person in par­ticular, he is a professor from the Redlands Institute, his name is Timothy Krantz, and he is right on the money when it comes to the potential for renewable energy here.

You have lots of wind, you have lots of sun, you have geothermal power. There are some projects going on but nothing or anything that would require fixing this place, so I came out here with that question of why. Its important for the birds, the environment, it’s important for the people."

 Norm Niver, Salton Sea Activist since 1974, Salton City

"I was there for the first effort that failed as a US Congressman died in a plane crash on his way down for the meeting with the US Government agencies that were now involved at the North Shore Yacht Club. US Congressman Jerry Pettis was a key player in all of this effort and joined by US Congressman Vesey. So the 1973-74 effort failed as the Congressman’s wife took over his work and disappeared in the halls of the US Capital. This ad hoc group and all moneys were paid for by the individual compa­nies.

The next effort, and I was there as the only member of the public to attend with a vote. This was the then Governor of California, George Deukmejian, 1983-1991. He created the Salton Sea Task Force which once again was only an ad hoc committee to try and find solutions to a slowly dying Salton Sea.

The facts are that the sea received very little money from Washington and none to my knowledge from our own state. The truth is Lake Tahoe receives more money per year than the Salton Sea ever came close to even one time. [...] So here we are today looking into the demise of the Salton Sea as “wasted tail water” is being transferred away from our county and over to the coastal region of California. As soon as 2013, all water excluding rain, will be stopped and given this the sea is capable of evaporating up to six to seven feet vertical in one long hot summer."

 Marilyn and Les Widd, Empanada Cook and IT, Salton City

 Marilyn: "Well, we hope the economy improves for all but also that the ball can be picked back up. I really believe that it’s beautiful and it would be really so sad to continue to let it evaporate. I don’t actually think that that will be allowed because of Owens Lake. If this was to turn, more and more acreage of water would be left to evaporate, leaving more areas that are open to silt. [...] With the coupling of the winds, it would be very difficult for this whole entire valley to exist. They have said in some of the studies that depending on the direction of the winds that even the LA and Orange County areas could see some of the silt. Apparently, Owens Lake likewise, the dust went in all directions and now they have to pay a lot of money to water it. And when we drove past it on the Highway 395 we saw these ginormous sprinklers, 24/7, they got to water it down, so the dust doesn’t all blow away.

Russell and Jody Schneider, Air Conditioning Repair and Teacher, Salton City

J Then the first exciting thing was that Russell got asked to run for King of Salton City and he won!  
R We were invited by a friend, the only person that I knew here, who said they are having this Salton Sea contest in the local bar and I thought, at least I am going to have a beer and see what its about. I walk in, they give me the application, I dance around a little bit, and then the next thing I know I’ve got a crown and cape and a scepter and I was the king. Once I became King of the Sea, I went to all the events so I got to meet a lot of people. I became involved in the Treasure Trails charity and signed up with the board of directors with them. With the youth centre I signed up on the board of directors as well because I liked both of those charitable organizations. So I found myself more involved in the community spirit in this small town than I ever was before. [...]

J My sister moved out here a year after I did into a house in a neighborhood on the other side of the 86. On that side of the highway all the houses caved; she had a beautiful pool, the pool cracked apart because they built on the sand. My sister lost everything, the whole neighborhood lost everything. And children from my school squatting without electricity because their parents have lost everything. It was horrifying. Nothing compares to what we went through in this town.
R We had the double whammy. We had the houses destroyed by themselves and we had no infrastructure. Our houses are brand new houses which you can buy for $40,000.

Katrine Knauer and Yasin Sengul, Visitors, Los Angeles

"K You know that I love sitting and chilling on a picnic bench and enjoying the night sky, the stars, that it’s beautiful being with friends and being in the middle of nature. You wake up to a beautiful place, hearing the pelicans. Then you have the more artistic experience to go to Salvation Mountain and then to go to the back and see all the graffiti [ Ed. note: on the Wheel of Karma and Wheel of War], that’s just something that I like and I am not used to seeing in this kind of setting. Just going to the Sonny Bono NWR, that was cool because of the waves. [...] It’s just so nice to hear the birds and the wind and I am a really big wind person. I like things blowing in the wind, I like the sound of things blowing in the wind and you don’t hear that in LA, you don’t hear any of those. It’s not like we have a tree in the back of our house, swaying. We have a wind chime, but it doesn’t chime. You hear the crow sometimes...

Sherri and Howard Smotherman, Volunteers and local Newspaper Editors, Salton City

"Sherri: Westshores ambulance, Westshores News and golf are my biggest involvements. The ambulance is the primary one. From our location, we need medical care and we are the closest thing we have. To get an ambulance from somewhere else, it’s going to take about an hour up and an hour back and you don’t have that time. So we are working to save our ambulance. We are a small non-profit, we have four ambulances and two rescue vehicles, we have paramedics and two EMT’s (Emergency Medical Technicians). When it started, people down here had nothing, so they got together as a bunch of volunteers and learnt to be EMT’s and do all the different stuff.
H The school is supposed to start a golf program for the 6th graders. The community needs the golf course. I didn’t spend my time working down here just because I wanted to play some golf. I think it’s a good place for the students to build a little character in the game of golf. We have a few golfers that spend a month here. There is this gentleman who came down here in November and he left last week (April) and that’s all he does, is play golf.
S He keeps his place down here all winter long and plays, no electricity, no anything and that’s his whole winter."

 Susan Magdaleno, Retiree and Powered Paraglider, Twice-monthly Visitor, Escondido

"I love wide open spaces and to see a sea out here in the middle of the desert… and just the history. So you got to understand the his­tory to really love the Salton Sea cause it is very intriguing and I don’t know whether you have understood this, the history of the Salton Sea, of how it was developed and even before it was developed and the recreation that took place. They are trying to bring it back a bit but they’ve got a lot of work.
 In a way I hope it doesn’t get overwhelmed with population. It takes you back years and years when America was kind of open, takes you back to the frontiers. Things are laid back, you know, you can get away from the hustle and bustle of San Diego and Orange County and come here and slow down. […] sometimes you see that garbage what we saw, that’s a disappointment, how the people disrespect the land. Even though this isn’t their paradise, but its paradise to someone else, which is you and I. You know to see people dump just like they do, it’s disheartening really."

Terry Weiner, Conservation Coordinator, Desert Protective Council, San Diego

"Also, if the Salton Sea shrinks, the exposed shoreline, which contains toxic chemicals from the run-off from farm fields, including pesticides and heavy minerals, would be subject to the high winds of the valley and become airborne thereby creating horrendous toxic dust storms. This would affect human resi­dents of the Imperial Valley as well as northward into the Palm Springs area of the Coachella Valley.

[…] the Bureau of Reclamation has been doing some good work creating some shallow habitat for birds where they can find insects to eat and nesting areas. The Torres Martinez Native American Tribe has created valuable wetlands at the northern end of the Sea. These wetlands are providing good bird habitat. The plan to create shallow wetland habitat as a means to deal with the restoration of the Salton Sea and deal with the ongoing shrinkage, is probably the best plan I have seen to-date.

Its beauty and changing light are incomparable and you will see especially in the spring time and the fall the most amazing range of species of birds. The quiet around the sea has a magic to it and it deserves to be protected. In California, we have lost so many of our wet­lands that we have to protect every acre that we have left."