The Salton Sea is California’s Everglades.
The Sea was created accidentally in 1905, when the Colorado River flooded and broke through temporary gates built to control water flowing into irrigation canals for farms in California’s Imperial Valley. For nearly 2 years the river spilled most of its water into the California desert.
It was no accident, however, that water should occupy the Salton Basin. A much larger freshwater body, Lake Cahuilla, covered the area in the sixteenth century, leaving bathtub like rings on the nearby Santa Rosa Mountains. Earlier in geologic time, an arm of the Gulf of California extended to the Salton Basin and beyond. More recently, the Colorado River flooded the area eight times in the nineteenth century, although each time the water evaporated within a few years.
The current Salton Sea would likely have disappeared too, were it not sustained by irrigation water. Threatened by the loss of that sustaining flow of water, the Sea is shrinking.
The Salton Sea Authority struggled to call attention to and gain support and funding for a solution to save the sea.
How to command attention and demand action for a solution when you are competing with much larger areas with much more political clout? You can’t exactly bring thousands of local residents to walk the halls of Sacramento.
To raise awareness and build support for a local restoration project, Kay Hazen and Company (KH) led an outreach and education effort that gathered more than 5,000 individual signatures and dozens of resolutions of support from local elected representatives, agencies and organizations in the Coachella Valley.
The signatures and physical expressions of support were published in a book and that was delivered with the message “The Future of the Salton Sea is In Your Hands” to every elected member of state legislature. This hard to miss delivery came with 5,000 more reasons to Save the Sea in the form of a poster with the signatures of support that had been gathered during outreach.
HOW’D IT GO?
Delivered just days before planned legislative visits to state offices, the hard to miss book and accompanying poster helped pave the way for productive discussions and support for the local project.