September 09, 2007
Salton Sea Documentary
Louis Proyect reviews Plagues and Pleasures on the Salton Sea. The Salton Sea was formed in 1905 when water from a breached irrigation canal flowed into a salty geological depression in California's desertic Imperial Valley.
As a consequence of the underlying mineral beds, the waters became saltier than the ocean.Flooding and industrial run-off then transformed the area into an environmental basket-case and destroyed its status as a tourist resort. The film details this history, and looks at the eccentric community that continues to live on the shores of this American dead sea. Or, not quite dead:
In an effort to turn the Salton Sea into a tourist attraction, local politicians stocked the sea with salt-water fish like the tilapia. Fifty years after its formation, Salton Sea became a mecca for working class vacationers who could not afford Palm Springs. It was also popular with water-skiers and motor boat enthusiasts. ...[I]t became a symbol of the post-WWII good life. Vintage newsreels from the 1950s describe towns clustered around the Salton Sea as a kind of miracle in the desert.
Despite its dubious origins, the Sea evolved into an extremely important bird habitat. With “development” rampant all across California, migrating birds have made the Salton Sea area a key nesting place on routes north or south. In one of the film's many fascinating interviews, an environmentalist asks where the birds are supposed to go if their habitat is destroyed.