The Salton Sea is in danger of being a saline body of water

Can the artists save the Salton Sea?

By DANIEL TAYLOR

When it comes to the fate of the Salton Sea, a story is emerging about how the drought and the oil business are at odds — and how, if the two can collide, the water may remain in jeopardy.

In the last days before this year’s April 7 deadline for the State Water Master Plan, the city of Palms (including its residents and businesses) faces a decision on the future of the 824-square-mile body of water in Riverside County.

With only 10 percent of the year’s water flowing into it, or the equivalent of about one quarter of the total annual runoff in the region, the Salton Sea is among the most imperiled body of water in the state.

For more than 30 years, the United States’ biggest energy company, Chevron, has been drilling in the region, hoping to tap its subterranean reserves for oil that it regards as a valuable alternative to fossil fuels.

But, in the last six years, the wells, drilled by Chevron on behalf of the state of California and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, have only produced about 2 million barrels a year, according to the company.

That oil is not sufficient to make a dent in its reserves. And the company has not found a good place to bring it to market.

That doesn’t bode well for the future of the sea.

After the State Water Master Plan is adopted, it will be the responsibility of the agency to decide whether Chevron can drill, in the case of a “no-drill” decision.

As of Monday, May 15, with just seven days left before the deadline for the agency to adopt the plan, no recommendation has been made by the state’s five-member Master Plan Advisory Committee for Chevron. The committee has asked the state’s five-member Advisory Water Quality Commission to “provide a report to the Water Master Plan Advisory Committee on the likely impact of

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