DWR Launching Salton Sea Habitat Enhancement Project


Salton Sea

Salton Sea, a desert lake that extends from the Coachella Valley into the Imperial Valley

SACRAMENTO – In a key step toward stemming one of the state’s most significant public health and ecological challenges, the California Department of Water Resources (DWR) today released a Request for Qualifications (RFQ) for a large-scale, multimillion-dollar project at the southern end of the Salton Sea. The 3,770-acre Species Conservation Habitat (SCH) project will suppress hazardous dust contributing to human health issues while creating habitat for endangered migratory birds at the fast-receding sea.

The project is aimed at preventing further degradation of air quality and habitat and will anchor phase one of the state’s Salton Sea Management Program, which focuses on constructing wetlands and other projects to reduce exposed lakebed and health hazards posed by airborne dust over 50,000 acres of playa.

“The release of this RFQ marks a significant milestone in the state’s commitment to the future of the Salton Sea. Future milestones will be achieved only with active and collaborative engagement from our local agency partners,” said DWR Director Karla Nemeth. “This is an exciting, first-of-its-kind project to improve air quality and benefit local communities, while also providing habitat to migratory birds of the Pacific Flyway. We are committed to working closely with our partners and other stakeholders to ensure the successful and timely construction of this project, and we expect their commitment and effort to match our own.”

Through the RFQ, DWR seeks to establish a partnership with a design-build construction firm with the resources, expertise, and vision to help advance the SCH project, one of several developed with state and local partners as part of the Salton Sea Management Program’s 10-year first phase.  Once the Imperial Irrigation District agrees to execute an easement for access to the land, DWR will issue a request for proposals for the project as early as July 2019. The state is prepared to commit up to $190 million for the project if Imperial Irrigation District is prepared to provide access.

“The release of the RFQ is an important step for the state toward fulfilling its commitments to the Salton Sea,” said Bruce Wilcox, California Natural Resources Agency Assistant Secretary for Salton Sea Policy. “We’re confident we’ll receive some innovative and exciting responses to the RFQ to move forward with improving habitat and air quality.”

The SCH project area spans part of the New River, a tributary to the Salton Sea, and is located about eight miles northeast of the town of Westmorland in Imperial County.

Responses to the RFQ must be submitted by 5 p.m. April 15. The RFQ and more information about this opportunity can be found on the DWR website at water.ca.gov/Programs/Engineering-And-Construction/Design-Build-Contracting.

The Salton Sea is a desert lake that extends from the Coachella Valley into the Imperial Valley. It is 35 miles long and 15 miles wide. Though saltier than the ocean, the Sea supports an abundance of fish, a food source for millions of migratory birds on the Pacific Flyway. Over the last several decades, water levels at the Salton Sea have declined and salinity concentrations have increased. In May 2015, Governor Edmund G. Brown Jr. created the Salton Sea Task Force and directed agencies to develop a comprehensive management plan for the sea. SCH is the first step along the path to improve conditions around the Salton Sea.


Erin Mellon, Assistant Director, Public Affairs, Department of Water Resources
(916) 651-2440 | erin.mellon@water.ca.gov