Valuing a Unique and Irreplaceable Ecosystem: A Study of California's Salton Sea
The Salton Basin, located in Southern California near the Mexico border, is home to the Salton Sea, California's largest lake. Neighboring the Sea are the Imperial, Coachella, and Mexicali Valleys, fertile agricultural areas that produce many winter crops. The Salton Sea is in danger of evaporating due to reduced inflow and rising salinity. The Sea supports a diverse ecosystem of birds, fish, invertebrates and microorganisms. It also offers recreational benefits including fishing, bird watching, speed boating, and camping. If the Sea were to dry up, all of these benefits would be lost. Economic consequences could also be severe. Tourism would cease, and a dry lakebed could lead to massive clouds of dust that would hinder the agricultural industry. This paper describes the importance of the Salton Sea as a unique and irreplaceable resource, and offers different methods of assigning value to an ecosystem. The future of the sea is discussed, with three possible courses of action: allowing the Sea to evaporate, implementing a proposal by U.S. Filter, or moving forward with the North Lake Alternative, a modified version of the U.S. Filter proposal that has been approved for further research. The North Lake Alternative is the most plausible choice, and would cause the least harm to the current ecosystem; however, a recent discovery about the composition of the Salton Sea lakebed has raised concerns about the fiscal feasibility of this plan. Regardless of which avenue is taken, the Salton Sea is an essential resource that must be preserved.Missing page 26.