Environment & Science

New River gets a new lease on life

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State officials are moving forward with plans to clean up one of the dirtiest rivers in the country. KPCC's Molly Peterson explains the effort to bring back the New River, which runs north through Imperial County, to the Salton Sea.

The channel itself is old, but the river is new – created near a volcanic lake in Mexico by a levee failure a little over a century ago. Most of what runs through it has been agricultural runoff, raw sewage, trash and debris.

A $90 million joint international effort between the U.S. and Mexico has cleared out untreated sewage over the last four years. But rampant fecal coliform, heavy metals, pesticides and pathogens remain, forming a nasty stew with shopping carts and other debris flowing from Mexicali north to the Salton Sea.

California lawmakers, armed with a $400,000 cleanup fund, are making a comprehensive plan for the river's health on the U.S. side of the border. Federal environmental officials, the Imperial Irrigation District, cities and non-government organizations are lending support too.

This week California environmental regulators will hold meetings to collect comments and complaints about the work to come.