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Salton Sea Water Quality, Air Quality and Agricultural Wetlands

 
 
Year Awarded: Fiscal Year 2016
USDA Funding: $7,528,760
Partner-Contributed Funding: $50,555,000
Project Timeline: 5 years (2016 – 2020)
Conservation Program Funded: Agricultural Conservation Easement Program – Wetland Reserve Easements (ACEP-WRE), Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP), and Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP)
California Counties: Imperial
Lead Partner: The Salton Sea Authority (SSA) was created by the state of California to oversee the comprehensive restoration of the Salton Sea.  SSA is comprised of the major local entities with the most direct stake in the future of the Salton Sea, including the Coachella Valley Water District, the Imperial Irrigation District (IID), Riverside County, Imperial County and the Torres Martinez Desert Cahuilla Indians (saltonsea.ca.gov).
 

Project Summary

The Salton Sea Air Quality, Water Quality and Agricultural Wetlands RCPP can provide technical and financial assistance opportunities to agricultural landowners and producers in the Imperial Irrigation District (IID) service area to improve water quality, reduce negative impacts to air quality, improve on-farm soil health and drought resistance, and improve at-risk species habitat of the Salton Sea.

The Salton Sea is a shallow, saline, terminal lake sustained by agricultural water discharges principally from the California Imperial Valley. The sea provides significant habitat for birds, with an estimated 400 species relying upon the Sea, as well as habitat for threatened and endangered species, and serves as key rest stop for birds migrating on the Pacific flyway.

Over the course of the last two decades, IID has been a party to agreements to generate 408,000 acre-feet per year of conserved irrigation water for transfer to Southern California urban users. This conserved water is generated through fallowing and water use efficiency improvements on agricultural lands within IID. However, this ag-to-urban water transfer is exacerbating the decline of the ecological health of the Salton Sea, which is sustained mostly by water discharges, or return flows, from agricultural lands.

With the end of mitigation water deliveries in 2017, the reduction of drainage inflows will result in the exposure of approximately 50,000 acres of playa at the Salton Sea that is currently underwater, is anticipated to cause significant air quality and habitat issues for the surrounding region. In addition to ongoing mitigation activities being implemented by IID, the state of California and other RCPP partners are engaged in habitat restoration and air quality measures to address these impacts. Technical and financial assistance provided through the Salton Sea Water Quality, Air Quality and Wetlands Habitat RCPP dovetails with these efforts.  

First, the RCPP aims to improve the water quality of drainage water flows through organic transition assistance and other measures, which will help assure the success of the first habitat restoration projects at the Sea. Improving water quality discharge from croplands will help contribute to state and national goals of reducing nutrients and sediments in surface waters, and improving fish and wildlife habitat. Second, the RCPP aims to improve air quality surrounding the Sea through soil health and other practices which reduce PM10 and PM2.5. Third, the RCPP will provide for wetland creation or restoration work to improve water quality and habitat.

Technical and financial assistance for ACEP-WRE is targeted to agricultural lands and producers:

  • In targeted drainages of the Alamo River, New River or along the Salton Sea margins interested in easements for wetland restoration to improve the water quality of New and Alamo River inflows.

Technical and financial assistance for EQIP is targeted to agricultural lands and producers:

  • Who incorporate fallow periods into their planned crop rotation sequence and are interested in transition from conventional to organic production.
  • With farmland draining from the Alamo River, New River or along the Salton Sea margins and into the Salton Sea interested in reducing on-farm particulate matter PM10 and PM2.5.
  • With farmland draining from the Alamo River, New River or along the Salton Sea margins and into the Salton Sea interested in drainage water quality management and on-farm soil health improvements.

Technical and financial assistance for CSP is targeted to agricultural lands and producers:

  • Who incorporate fallow periods into their planned crop rotation sequence and interested in enhancing the benefits achieved by implementing conservation practices related to organic standards and production.
  • With farmland draining from the Alamo River, New River or along the Salton Sea margins into the Salton Sea interested in enhancing benefits achieved through drainage water quality management, on-farm soil health improvements and reduce air quality impacts.
 
NRCS accepts EQIP applications year-round. EQIP is a voluntary, conservation program administered by NRCS that can provide financial and technical assistance to install conservation practices scheduled in a current conservation plan. NRCS establishes cutoff dates to batch applications and make funding decisions.
 
To be ready for EQIP funding consideration, interested applicants will need to: 1) submit the application form, 2) meet program eligibility requirements, 3) develop a conservation plan, and 4) approve their ‘EQIP schedule of operations’. The time needed to complete a conservation plan and process eligibility can vary, from a few weeks to more than a month, depending on the complexity of the farming operation.
 
For fiscal year 2018, the cutoff date for the Salton Sea Water Quality, Air Quality and Agricultural Wetlands RCPP-EQIP funding is:
April 6, 2018
June 1, 2018
June 22, 2018
 
 
For information on producer and land eligibility for EQIP visit the Program Eligibility webpage.
 
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NRCS Contact

Han Nguyen, Acting District Conservationist
Natural Resources Conservation Service
Phone: 760-355-2208, ext. 106
Email: Han.Nguyen@ca.usda.gov