As Salton Sea faces ecological collapse, a plan to save it with ocean water is rejected by the Californian government. But the fight is far from over.
If you told me 30 years ago that I’d be writing a book to help protect the iconic Salton Sea in California’s Imperial Valley from oil and natural gas development, I’d tell you that you were a little off. No, it happened.
It was May 1995, and my father was in his first year teaching environmental science at the University of California at Riverside. As the year drew to a close, there were signs of an oil well nearby, right on the edge of our field, where we collected and analyzed soil samples to understand how water flows underground. I had visited my parents’ home and was surprised by their well-preserved home, which looked brand-new after decades of neglect. In 1994, a major oil and gas boom had swept over California, but we were too worried about our water table to take any chances. I had been collecting samples ever since.
I was visiting the Imperial Valley with three of my friends—Michaela McLean, Emily Sommers, and Michaela’s fiancé, Scott Heidman—and we were there to help a little-known group called Friends of the Salton Sea, which is based out of Boulder, Colorado, and was trying to save the Salton Sea from a proposed oil and gas development. The Salton Sea, in Southern California, is a major fresh water marsh, the largest wetland in the world. On Friday evening we sat together on the front lawn of the University of California, Riverside while Michaela and Emily explained the situation to a group of students from Arizona State University. Michaela and Emily would be returning to the valley the following day, as it was their first attempt to make a difference in their community.
That day, our group decided to leave for the oil field after dinner to show our support for the Salton Sea. We were all dressed in black, with black T-shirts and black pants. Scott and Michaela wore