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Proposal Would Commit California To Acting On Shrinking Lake

EL CENTRO, Calif. (AP) — Five months after California outlined a $383 million plan to slow the shrinking of the state's largest lake, agencies will try to make sure officials honor the commitment, according to a report.

The proposal announced in March involves building ponds at the north and south ends of the Salton Sea, a salty, desert lake that has suffered a string of environmental setbacks since the 1970s.

The plan left agencies in the Imperial Valley unsatisfied because only $80.5 million has been approved so far — and they questioned whether the state would follow through and live up to its commitments during the next decade.

Now the Imperial Irrigation District and other agencies have negotiated an agreement with state officials that would ease those concerns by holding California accountable for its pledges under the 10-year plan.

The State Water Resources Control Board will discuss the tentative agreement — which is formally called a "draft stipulated order" — and hear public comments at a Sept. 7 meeting in Sacramento, The Desert Sun newspaper reported Saturday.

If the deal holds, it would represent a consensus on what California agencies will be responsible for doing around the lake years after Gov. Jerry Brown leaves office when his term ends following the 2018 election.

"It's a very big deal," said Bruce Wilcox, the assistant secretary for Salton Sea policy at California's Natural Resources Agency. "It means that we're all agreeing — at least for 10 years — we're all agreeing on what's going to happen at the Salton Sea."

The Imperial Irrigation District and Imperial County negotiated the agreement with the San Diego County Water Authority and the state.

By locking in a consensus on the Salton Sea, the agreement could eventually clear the way for a larger Colorado River drought deal between California, Arizona and Nevada, which have been negotiating how the states could temporarily draw less water from Lake Mead to avert severe shortages.

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