Did you know there was a sea in the mainland of the United States?  It is the Salton Sea and is located in southern California.

The Salton Sea is a shallow, saline, rift lake located directly on the San Andreas Fault, predominantly in California’s Imperial and Coachella valleys, east and a little north of San Diego.

The Salton Sea is more than 200 feet below sea level!  It has a surface area of about 350 square miles, but is shrinking rapidly.

The history of the Salton Sea is quite interesting and is described in Wikipedia.

The area alternates between a dry valley and a lake.  According to Wikipedia the cycle is about every 400-500 years.  In 1900 the area was dry.  The California Development Company began to construct irrigation canals to divert water into the Salton Sink.  In 1905 heavy rainfall and snow melt overran canals and flooding the area, creating the current iteration of the Salton Sea.

The Salton Sea has become an important nesting and wintering ground for many bird species.

Efforts are now underway to provide water to the sea. The following information from The Birding Community E-Bulletin describes some of the efforts.

“This may be a crucial year for the famous inland Salton Sea in Southern California, an Important Bird Area (IBA) of global significance. In the last five or so years, water level has dropped to the point that some nesting birds began abandoning entire colonial nesting sites, and shallow habitat areas at the water’s edge have begun to rapidly vanish, especially at the sea’s south end.

But starting last year, significant amounts of water (perhaps 40%) that enters the sea through adjacent agricultural fields began to be diverted elsewhere. The sea will continue to shrink, and this will become more obvious this year. State and federal officials will have to address these consequences as they impact bird habitat, boating recreation, and even human health (e.g. asthma increases with blowing dust). Impacts on birds includes the fact that the number of Eared Grebes is clearly declining, 30% of the continent’s American White Pelicans wintering at the sea are at risk, and the future status of many shorebirds wintering there is in question. As less water flows into the Salton Sea, it will become increasingly saline with resulting shrinkage, and eventually it could become inhospitable for many birds, fish, and insects.

A late-2016 report by Audubon California, Point Blue Conservation Science, and Cooper Ecological Monitoring, Inc. modeled the use of bird habitat at the Salton Sea using data collected in 1999 and 2015. The report’s recommendations could still become a standard for urgent sea conservation, and it can be found here.

Additional information on the issues is available on the Audubon web site.”

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