The Imperial Irrigation District is launching a public relations campaign focused on the Salton Sea and is hiring two companies at a cost of $310,000 to spread its message.
That message relates to the landmark 2003 water transfer deal known as the Quantification Settlement Agreement (QSA) – which was upheld by a judge earlier this month – and the agreement’s impact in speeding up the decline of water levels in the Salton Sea.
The IID Board decided on Tuesday to hire two firms, Washington-based APCO Worldwide and Santa Barbara-based Diversity Consulting Group, for the statewide public relations campaign during the next six months.
“They will be helping us craft messaging and they will be bringing about greater awareness of the Salton Sea,” said Marion Champion, an IID spokeswoman. “We really want to change the public mindset. We want them to care about the Salton Sea and the health of the Salton Sea.”
The Salton Sea has been shrinking in recent years as agricultural runoff has diminished, and the pace of change is expected to pick up in the next several years due to transfers of Colorado River water from the Imperial Valley to San Diego under the QSA.
As the Salton Sea shrinks, exposed stretches of shoreline are expected to release increasing amounts of dust into the wind, posing increasing health hazards similar to those that have plagued communities in the Owens Valley.
Champion said IID Board members have made clear that the 2003 agreement wouldn’t have been approved if state officials hadn’t pledged a restoration plan for the Salton Sea at the time.
“The fear is that the state is not actively pursuing a restoration plan,” she said. “We have to look at how we’re going to fulfill the QSA yet not harm the region.”
Thus the IID’s decision to get out its message statewide. A copy of the agency’s agreement with APCO Worldwide says the company will “provide assistance in educating the media, affected communities within and outside of Imperial Valley, major stakeholders, and government officials.”
It also says the firm will be raising issues such as ”compliance with air quality standards, mitigation of environment impacts, protection of water rights.”