In a key step to improve conditions at the Salton Sea, construction began this week on the state’s first large-scale project to create habitat and reduce exposed lakebed around the Sea.
The Species Conservation Habitat (SCH) project, located at the southern end of the Sea on both sides of the New River, will create a network of ponds and wetlands to provide important fish and bird habitat and suppress dust emissions to improve regional air quality as the Salton Sea recedes. The SCH project will cover approximately 4,110 acres, an increase over the previously estimated 3,770 acres due to an updated design. Construction is expected to continue through the end of 2023.
Following initial onsite work in late fall, the state’s design-build contractor, Kiewit Infrastructure West Co., this week began clearing vegetation and constructing an interception ditch to drain the site. The contractor also began construction of a southern habitat berm.
“Beginning actual construction on this large project represents important progress,” California Secretary for Natural Resources Wade Crowfoot said. “It is only possible thanks to strong coordination with our local, state and federal partners, including Imperial Irrigation District, Imperial County, the Imperial County Air Pollution Control District, the Colorado River Regional Water Quality Control Board, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Obviously, much more work lies ahead. We need to continue to deliver projects on the ground that improve conditions at the Salton Sea for residents as well as for wildlife.”
The SCH project anchors phase one of the state’s Salton Sea Management Program, which centers on constructing wetlands and other projects to limit exposed lakebed, reduce airborne dust and restore environmental habitat on 30,000 acres around the Sea. The SCH is a $206.5 million investment in Imperial County that will create as many as 3,000 jobs.
After obtaining site access to the SCH area in May 2019, the state team launched the contracting process and executed a design-build contract to Kiewit in September. This design-build process, which expedites delivery of the project, was made possible through 2016 legislation supported by Assemblymember Eduardo Garcia and Senator Ben Hueso. State agencies also executed a water use agreement with Imperial Irrigation District to enable the project.
Though the construction site is not open to the public due to COVID-19 restrictions, the state team will share images of the project as construction advances on the state’s Salton Sea Management Program website.
To sign-up for periodic updates on the Salton Sea Management Plan, please visit this link.