California’s largest lake is at a crucial point of no return. And in a style that initiates both grave concern and significant hope, eight time Emmy award winning director Bill Wisneski documents the perils that will ensue if the Salton Sea is left to completely waste away.
His film “Breaking Point” illustrates the profound implications that awaits this body of water and warns of the impending disasters that are nearing the breaking point if solutions are not found.
The making of “Breaking Point” took form as he stumbled upon the conditions of the Salton Sea when he went to produce a geology film. Like so many other people, he previously had formed a negative view of the area. Stories surrounding it pronounced the region apocalyptic, a dead sea where strange and weird things abide. But once there, he started researching the history with its complexity of issues and realized it made a compelling story that needed to be told.
To the many who don’t know where the Salton Sea lies or that it contains 50 percent more salt than the ocean, the issue seems a far away problem of no significance. But for the past 50 years, experts have been predicting the waters would slowly erode and create severe consequences.
With the loss of this inland sea, an ecological basin and major resting stop for migratory birds on the Pacific Flyway would disappear. This is not just a regional resource, but an international one; close to 100,000 birds feed at the lake.
Due to the 90 percent loss of coastal wetlands in southern California within the past 100 years, the Salton Sea has become a very important reserve for these birds and a place where nature displays her loveliness.
Wisneski wanted to dispel the negative impression that surrounds the area, so he gave focus to the splendor constantly neglected by the media. Even through the challenges this region is experiencing, the amazing footage he took of the lake at sunset or the hundreds of birds flocking on its shores bring a positive light to this misunderstood land.
Asked about the lake, he commented “Its sheer size gives it many different habitats, each with its own special environment.” And so it was during filming he found himself along with his crew camping under the stars by the lake absorbing the translucent beauty into his film.
“Breaking Point” also depicts the current drought as a guiding force with far reaching implications. One of them is the chain of events that forces the Imperial Valley, the biggest source of water for the Salton Sea, to reduce its agricultural water use. And by 2017 when the final cut-off takes place, the vast water reduction will cause the salinity content to rise. Thousands of fish will die and birds will disappear. What is left will be a dry lake bed with a far deadlier repercussion than the absence of wildlife.
Enormous amounts of very silky pesticide-ridden sediments from the agricultural wash will be exposed from the bottom of the lake as it dries up. Desert winds will scoop up the dried toxic sediment and form huge dust storms that currently have traveled over the mountains to San Diego, Orange County and Los Angeles regions, polluting the air with its unhealthy, even lethal, brew.
Is there hope for the Salton Sea? Wisneski winds up his film on a positive note. Through his year and half of solid research, the more he learned about it the more his opinion shifted and the pessimism of a doomed sea took a turn for the better.
There are solutions. But the complexity of the issue provides a major roadblock to future reform.
“The last two years have shown a momentum of hope [for the Salton Sea]. But since our film, we have received an incredible response from half a dozen agencies excited to use our screenings to raise awareness for their cause.”
The film does drive the needed awareness into a fundamental level for all to understand. And with it an optimism that keeps the Salton Sea filled with anticipation for a better tomorrow.
“Breaking Point” screens on Monday, April 27, at 2:45 p.m. at Island Cinema. For more information visit NewportBeachFilmFest.com.