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Salton Sea License Plates Not Yet Popular

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An illustration of a Salton Sea license plate is shown in this undated photograph.

An effort to create commemorative Salton Sea license plates has been slow to take off.

An effort to create commemorative Salton Sea license plates has been slow to take off.

Last year, the Greater Palm Springs Convention and Visitors Bureau began working with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife to sell the speciality plates.

The plates cost $50 to $98, depending on whether the driver wants to keep his old license number. A portion of the money would go to the Salton Sea Authority to benefit environmental restoration of the sea.

How To Buy

Salton Sea license plates can be ordered using a form available here.

The group had a year to collect 7,500 orders, which it could then take to the state Department of Motor Vehicles to create the plates. The DMV won't begin producing plates until 7,500 orders are made.

That deadline recently passed with only 80 orders, said Kathy Strong, editorial manager at the Greater Palm Springs Convention and Visitors Bureau.

"At this point, the license plate is not selling well, probably because of the lack of ability to take credit card orders," Strong said.

She said technical difficulties prevented the Department of Fish and Wildlife from taking credit card orders, but she hopes that glitch will be fixed soon. The DMV extended her group's deadline by a year, so they now are working on accumulating 7,500 orders.

Agricultural runoff and California's drought have made the sea a potential environmental disaster, creating toxic dust storms as the water level shrinks.

The Salton Sea is also an important habitat for migrating and resident birds, according to the Department of Fish and Wildlife Department. But its oxygen and salinity levels lead to massive fish die-offs, giving it a reputation for bad smells and a border of fish skeletons.

The license plate design won't reflect that image — instead, it will show a bird soaring above the water. The design was made by a local high school student and was chosen in a public vote.

Strong said she hopes people will buy the license plates not because of the sea's beauty, but because it needs the funds.

"People obviously have many of these plates to choose from," she said. "But for people who live, or have second homes in greater Palm Springs, San Diego and Imperial Valley, they’re all going to be affected by the degradation of the lake."

She said she hopes the license plates will not only raise money for environmental restoration but awareness of the issues facing the Salton Sea.


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Claire Trageser
Investigative Reporter

opening quote marksclosing quote marksAs a member of the KPBS investigative team, my job is to hold the powerful in San Diego County accountable. I've done in-depth investigations on political campaigns, police officer misconduct and neighborhood quality of life issues.

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