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Conservationists and an American Indian tribe sued the federal government yesterday in an attempt to stop water transfers they claim could further threaten the dying Salton Sea.
Filed in federal court in Riverside, Calif., the lawsuit could delay a complicated water swap aimed at reducing California's overuse of Colorado River water, reports Associated Press writer Robert Jablon.
The suit claims Interior Secretary Gale Norton and the Bureau of Reclamation have not completed mandated studies on restoring the sea.
The 380-square-mile lake, created in the desert by a 1905 canal breach, survives mainly through agricultural runoff. But with no outlet to the ocean, it has become increasingly salty and could be unable to support fish or wildlife in a few decades.
A 1998 act required the government to develop a plan by 2000 to restore the sea. The suit says feasibility studies and a final environmental impact statement are two years late.
The lawsuit was filed by the Sierra Club, the Center for Biological Diversity and the Cabazon Band of Mission Indians, whose members have long used the sea and surrounding areas for hunting, fishing and other activities.
In additions, the Salton Sea is the key in a proposed transfer of water from Imperial County agriculture to San Diego for drinking water. The plan has become crucial as California tries to shrink its take of Colorado River water by 15 percent by 2016.
The state has a Dec. 31 deadline to show it is on track to meet that goal or risk an immediate cutback that would be borne entirely by Southern California homes and businesses.