Salton Sea, Calif.
Designed by Swiss-born Modernist architect Albert Frey,* the Yacht Club is an architectural gem sitting in a pretty desolate location, the northeastern shore of the Salton Sea, across Highway 111 and the Southern Pacific tracks from the unincorporated community of North Shore. Built in 1959, the marina was used to dock boats, in an era when the Sea had more visitors per year than Yosemite.
With the jetty long gone and the Yacht Club abandoned and vandalized, in 2009, Riverside County restored the building. For about a year the Salton Sea Museum operated from the building, with over 7000 visitors signing in. Sadly the museum closed, and the facility is now primarily used as a community center by Desert Recreational District. BUT at least it is being used and maintained!
Now the “new” problem is the dropping Sea water level, leaving the inlet to the marina cut off from the Sea. Last month the Coachella Valley Mountains Conservancy** voted to approve a grant, which along with funds from the Bureau of Reclamation and the California Natural Resources Agency, would enable the Salton Sea Authority to rehabilitate the inlet and marina. If you go to Google Maps satellite image of the area, you can see a tiny, compromised inlet from the Sea to the marina. However, last Sunday I went down to take photos and stood “in the inlet,” on dry beach to take the photo below.
Last Spring Desert X https://www.desertx.org/ brought more visitors to the area to see the outdoor art installations around the Coachella Valley, including the Salton Sea. It reminds me a little of Marfa Texas, in that a gem of art, is sitting in an out of the way location.
Next week the Salton Sea Summit will convene at UCR Palm Desert campus; let us hope this will bring needed attention and solutions.
*Albert Frey’s architecture is Desert Modernism, centered on Palm Springs; his work includes the Palm Springs Tramway Valley Station and the Tramway Gas Station, now used an a Visitor’s Center on the entry into the City, as well as City Hall, etc.
** I am the State Senate appointee and current Chairwoman http://cvmc.ca.gov/
9 thoughts on “North Shore Beach and Yacht Club”
In the late 1960s, when the weather was nice, my grandfather would drive to Salton Sea with my grandmother and I.
Grandma would “bird”, Grandpa would take pictures and I would play in the mud.
We would then have a picnic lunch and a few hours later, head home.
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What wonderful memories!
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A few random thoughts:
1. Who provided this site with the postcard alleging it as an authentic 1959 card?
2. Even as late as ’59, photoshop, cut & paste technology could not have produced the wildly imaginative backdrop as shown in the photo this site shows.
3. Although the Tilapia, Croaker and Corvina are long gone, there’s some thing rather ‘fishy’ about the card as it is represented.
The postcard was handed out at the reopening of the Yacht Club building in 2010. The Salton Sea Museum distributed it as a reprint with no copyright notice (see caption above). The lady who was the “guiding light” behind the Museum/Historical Society passed away a few years ago, and I have no idea how one could find out her source.
Since the water level in the Sea has dropped so much, I have no way of getting on a boat and seeing what the background, seen from that height, would show today; however, I agree that showing that much of the sand hills in the background is improbable. It wouldn’t be the first advertising postcard that exaggerated a scene.
The purpose of my post was two fold: to show the tremendous drop in the Sea level, making the entrance to the yacht club basin inaccessible; and to show the building before the vandalism (I do think the colors in the card are rather lurid, but that may be due to color film aging).
I am from the southern end of the Salton Sea in the Imperial Valley. The IID (Imperial Irrigation District) has been fighting to save the sea, but it faces so many obstacles. There are several Western states, local governments, bureaucratic agencies, water districts, and Mexico that have a legal claim on water from the Colorado River.
The Boulder Canyon Project (1928) established water rights for water districts throughout Southern California, but the IID claims it was granted superior rights by the Colorado River Compact of 1922. Most of the water (97%) apportioned by the IID is transferred to Imperial Valley farmers.
Under the Quantification Settlement Agreement (QSA) of 2003, the IID agreed to a 50-year transfer of water to San Diego County with the understanding that the State of California would commit to saving the Salton Sea.
Why is this important?
The sea depends on agricultural runoff to maintain its water level. The runoff is channeled through the New River basin. One of the effects of the QSA is that the IID has paid farmers to not grow crops. In order to sell Valley residents on the transfer of water to San Diego, the IID said that it would not result in water restrictions.
That was a lie which I predicted 17 years ago. When you drive through the Valley today, you’ll be struck by all the dead trees, lawns and landscaping. In the ensuing years there have been shortages of winter produce because farmers are being paid not to farm.
Now the IID is telling farmers it is going to reduce, or eliminate the subsidy to fallow their land. The ag community is up in arms.
One other issue that is being ignored is that the New River (which flows across the border from Mexico) is North America’s most heavily polluted body of water. It contains every known contaminant, toxin, pathogen, virus and bacterium … and it discahrges into the Salton Sea!
And what is the State of California doing, or the Federal government for that matter? Nothing, if you ask the residents of Imperial County. Mexico, seemingly, is permitted to violate the International Boundary and Water Commission.
Our state senator said that we cannot expect that the Salton Sea will ever be restored to its glory days when it was known as Palm Springs South; and there is an opinion in Congress that the Salton Sea was a freak accident, and not worth being saved.
Solutions have been offered like creating evaporation ponds where the water is essentially desalinated. The agricultural runoff that feeds the sea is also the source of the concentrated salt that is leeched from the soil. Those concentrations are responsible for killing millions of fish and birds.
It’s a two-edged sword. The sea needs the water, but not the salt. A transfusion of water either from the Colorado River, or Mexico’s Sea of Cortez. might be the solution. The IID, as a result of QSA, doesn’t have the water to spare so the Colorado is a non-starter.
I have suggested that Mexico permit the United States to transfer water from the Sea of Cortez in exchange for the cleanup of the New River. Mexico cannot afford to treat the water flowing across the border so my proposal would be that the U.S. pay for a treatment facility in exchange for the transfer of water.
Alternately, Utah’s Great Salt Lake and California’s Mono Lake.might be viable solutions.
State and Federal officials have agreed that the Salton Sea is in “dire straits”. It is an environmental catastrophe. Migratory birds along the Pacific Flyway depend on this most essential rest stop. In addition, the dry lake bed has contributed to a massive dust cloud that envelopes the county. Many kids, myself included, are literally born with asthma. In California, the largest number of emergency room visits by asthmatic children is in the Imperial Valley.
The air is not fit to breathe. Homeowners’ lawns have turned to dust so it’s not even healthy to play in the front yard.
The transfusion of water could cost $50 billion. Do we have the will (and the money) to save the sea? At least for the sake of the children’s health, and the conservation of wildlife.
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Thank you for a great summary. The 1922 Compact allocation was based on the data then available, but those readings were from the wettest years for centuries. The situation on the River is exacerbated by many factors, but the main factors are; the other 6 states have developed in the last 98 years and now are demanding their share of the allocations; years of drought have taken their toll; and, as David points out, the transfer to San Diego was confirmed based on promises that California would adopt a Salton Sea plan and take action.
My dad (who built major water projects for the Bureau of Reclamation, etc.) told me many years ago that water would end up being transferred from agricultural areas to cities because cities have more votes in DC.
The economic and health consequences are major issues; the Imperial Valley & lower Coachella Valley have many residents who are economically disadvantaged. Add to that, even the County Clubs residents of the upper CV should be concerned that their property values can plummet, due to the smells, dust, and water challenges to the golf courses and landscaping.
Keeping this issue before the public seems to be the only way to convince Washington & Sacramento to take action.
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Some readers may not be aware that saving the Salton Sea was a passion of Rep. Sonny Bono. The southern end of the sea in the Imperial Valley was designated the Sonny Bono Salton Sea National Wildlife Refuge in 1998. This is not a new issue, but still unresolved after so many years. The biggest hurdle is that there are so many competing interests. Drought conditions only magnify the problem as maintaining the water level at Lake Mead has become the priority. Western distribution of water from the Colorado River depends on a healthy Lake Mead.
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California’s 2020 budget includes funding for AB 617 (Community Air Protection Program) sponsored by the Imperial Valley and Eastern Coachella Valley. The New River Improvement Project and the North Lake Project, part of the Salton Sea Management Plan, will receive $47 million for habitat and air quality improvement. These are basically remediation projects — not restoration.
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We can hope that these project actually receive funding. There really is no plan for restoration, only mitigation.