Salton Sea plan may worsen lake

first_img AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MOREBlues bury Kings early with four first-period goals The La Quinta-based Salton Sea Authority, which features the split sea as the centerpiece of a billion-dollar economic and environmental revival proposed for the lake, has already changed its plans to reduce buildups of the deadly gas. Authority executive director Ron Enzweiler said treating water flowing into the sea and using pipes to drain the gassiest water from the bottom of the lake will eliminate the threat. “These are like little design changes we are continually working on,” Enzweiler said of undersea pipes in the latest plans. “You don’t have a problem then.” Smelly “burps” of hydrogen sulfide gas from the 345-square-mile Salton Sea have long plagued the Coachella Valley. When high winds churn the shallow sea, it kicks up hydrogen sulfide gas that’s trapped in the water. The gas, formed when algae decays on the sea floor, has a rotten egg smell that can reach as far as Riverside, Amrhein said. As recently as 1999, the state’s entire hydrogen sulfide industry produced less than 3,000 tons of the gas annually, Amrhein said. LA QUINTA, Calif. – Plans for a smaller Salton Sea, which coughs up smelly hydrogen sulfide burps that kill fish and overwhelm desert resort areas, could make the troubled lake even stinkier. The Salton Sea produces 23 times more hydrogen sulfide gas than all the industry in California, and a plan to split the lake could increase problems unless a mechanism is created to relieve the lake’s gas buildup. “Everybody is thinking that, but nobody wants to say it out loud,” said Chris Amrhein, a University of California, Riverside, professor who’s studying how much gas escapes from the sea. New computer models indicate a reconfigured, shrunken lake would slosh less during high winds and allow gaseous buildups that would last three times longer than current buildups. The gas produces a rotten egg smell. The sea in its current state is thought to be capable of producing 70,000 tons, although the vast majority never escapes to the atmosphere, he said. The Salton Sea Authority plan would put a dam across the middle of the sea to create a smaller, cleaner, recreational lake in the north. An even smaller lake and wetlands in the south would support habitat, and a brine pool would store incoming salts. But computer models indicate the reduced surface area of the smaller lake in the north could make it harder for the wind to make the lake slosh, trapping gas in the sea for up to a year or longer. “If all that hydrogen sulfide is released at one time, we could potentially have a catastrophic killing of everything in the water column,” said Doug Barnum, a U.S. Geological Survey scientist who studies the lake from the Salton Sea Science office in La Quinta.160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set!last_img

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