The Pacific Institute is calling the approval of a Salton Sea management plan “a real turning point” on the issue, but local residents say they are frustrated with the action.

The plan, officially dubbed the Commitment to Support Salton Sea Management Related to Water Conservation in the Lower Colorado River Basin, was approved Tuesday at a special meeting of the Imperial Irrigation District. Along with IID, the strategy also includes the California Natural Resources Agency and the Coachella Valley Water District. But there is also a federal partnership with the Interior Department, which is committing $250 million toward actions to benefit the region, including a $225 million Bureau of Reclamation investment to address air quality, protect public health, and restore habitat.

“The Salton Sea has long been the linchpin of water resilience for the Colorado River Basin. Without IID’s aggressive participation, the basin can never achieve stability,” Michael Cohen, a senior associate at the Pacific Institute, said in a statement. “While this is only a first step and will not be sufficient on its own to protect either the Salton Sea or Lake Mead, this landmark agreement demonstrates much-needed federal commitment to the Salton Sea and IID’s commitment to improving Basin resilience.” 

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The agreement also halts the diversion of about 250,000 acre-feet of water from the Colorado River.

Local stakeholders criticized the board’s approval process, saying new board members — who are set to be sworn in later this week — should have been able to vote on the deal.

IID General Manager Henry Martinez said the agreement was part of “an ongoing effort by the Imperial Irrigation District to bring external resources and broader partnerships to the Salton Sea’s many public health and environmental challenges.”

Story updated to include Martinez statement.

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