Arch. Myriam B. Mahiques Curriculum Vitae

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Salton Sea: the beauty of ruins

 My eldest daughter has gone to Salton Sea and took these pictures. Both her and me are moved by the beauty of the ruins. "It's like a ghost town, " she explained to me. I was curious and so I read about the town's history in The link is below to complete the reading.
All pictures by Vera Makianich, please do not reproduce without permission.

 The Salton Sea is a shallow, saline, endorheic rift lake located directly on the San Andreas Fault, predominantly in California's Imperial and Coachella Valleys. The lake occupies the lowest elevations of the Salton Sink in the Colorado Desert of Imperial and Riverside counties in Southern California. Like Death Valley, it is below sea level. Currently, its surface is 226 ft (69 m) below sea level. The deepest point of the sea is 5 ft (1.5 m) higher than the lowest point of Death Valley. The sea is fed by the New, Whitewater, and Alamo rivers, as well as agricultural runoff drainage systems and creeks. The Sea was created by a flood in 1905, in which water from the Colorado River flowed into the area. While it varies in dimensions and area with fluctuations in agricultural runoff and rainfall, the Salton Sea averages 15 mi (24 km) by 35 mi (56 km). With an average area of roughly 525 sq mi (1,360 km2), the Salton Sea is the largest lake in California. Average annual inflow is 1,360,000 acre·ft (1.68 km3), which is enough to maintain a maximum depth of 52 ft (16 m) and a total volume of about 7,500,000 acre·ft (9.3 km3). The lake's salinity, about 44 g/L, is greater than that of the waters of the Pacific Ocean (35 g/L), but less than that of the Great Salt Lake (which ranges from 50 to 270 g/L). The concentration increases by about 1 percent annually. (...) 

Accidental creation of the current Salton Sea

 In 1900, the California Development Company began construction of irrigation canals to divert water from the Colorado River into the Salton Sink, a dry lake bed. After construction of these irrigation canals, the Salton Sink became fertile for a time, allowing farmers to plant crops. Within two years, the Imperial Canal became filled with silt from the Colorado River. Engineers tried to alleviate the blockages to no avail. In 1905, heavy rainfall and snowmelt caused the Colorado River to swell, overrunning a set of headgates for the Alamo Canal. The resulting flood poured down the canal and breached an Imperial Valley dike, eroding two watercourses, the New River in the west, and the Alamo River in the east, each about 60 miles (97 km) long.
Over a period of approximately two years these two newly created rivers sporadically carried the entire volume of the Colorado River into the Salton Sink. The Southern Pacific Railroad attempted to stop the flooding by dumping earth into the canal's headgates area, but the effort was not fast enough, and as the river eroded deeper and deeper into the dry desert sand of the Imperial Valley, a massive waterfall was created that started to cut rapidly upstream along the path of the Alamo Canal that now was occupied by the Colorado. This waterfall was initially 15 feet (4.6 m) high but grew to a height of 80 feet (24 m) before the flow through the breach was finally stopped. It was originally feared that the waterfall would recede upstream to the true main path of the Colorado, attaining a height of up to 100 to 300 feet (30 to 91 m), from where it would be practically impossible to fix the problem. As the basin filled, the town of Salton, a Southern Pacific Railroad siding, and Torres-Martinez Native American land were submerged. The sudden influx of water and the lack of any drainage from the basin resulted in the formation of the Salton Sea.
The continuing intermittent flooding of the Imperial Valley from the Colorado River led to the idea of the need for a dam on the Colorado River for flood control. Eventually, the federal government sponsored survey parties in 1922 that explored the Colorado River for a dam site, ultimately leading to the construction of Hoover Dam in Black Canyon, which was constructed beginning in 1929 and completed in 1935. The dam effectively put an end to the flooding episodes in the Imperial Valley.(...)

Environmental decline

The lack of an outflow means that the Salton Sea is a system of accelerated change. Variations in agricultural runoff cause fluctuations in water level (and flooding of surrounding communities in the 1950s and 1960s), and the relatively high salinity of the inflow feeding the Sea has resulted in ever increasing salinity. By the 1960s it was apparent that the salinity of the Salton Sea was rising, jeopardizing some of the species in it. The Salton Sea has a salinity exceeding 4.0% w/v (saltier than seawater) and many species of fish can no longer survive. It is believed that once the salinity surpasses 4.4% w/v, only the tilapia will survive. Fertilizer runoffs combined with the increasing salinity have resulted in large algal blooms and elevated bacteria levels.

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