Padilla, Feinstein, Ruiz Introduce Bill to Expand Federal Authority at the Salton Sea
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senators Alex Padilla and Dianne Feinstein (both D-Calif.) introduced the Salton Sea Projects Improvements Act, legislation to increase federal investment in ecological improvement projects at the Salton Sea. The bill would significantly expand the ability of the Bureau of Reclamation at the Department of the Interior to partner with state, local, and Tribal governments, as well as other entities, to address the public health and environmental crisis at the Salton Sea.
This legislation was introduced in the House by Congressman Raul Ruiz, M.D. (CA-36) in June.
The Salton Sea Projects Improvements Act would explicitly authorize Bureau of Reclamation to be the federal partner on projects improve air quality, fish and wildlife habitat, recreational opportunities, and water quality in the area. The bill also increases the amount Reclamation is authorized to spend towards these efforts at the Salton Sea from $10 million to $250 million.
“The joint environmental and health crises at the Salton Sea have been neglected for too long, and the impacts of that of that neglect have wreaked havoc on the environment and surrounding communities,” said Senator Padilla. “I’m grateful to Dr. Ruiz for his leadership in refusing to let the federal government turn a blind eye to this crisis. This bill will begin to provide the necessary federal investments to protect critical habitat, improve air quality for the largely disadvantaged communities who live nearby, and boost the local economy through expanded recreational opportunities.”
“We must move quickly if we’re going to protect public health and the Salton Sea’s unique environment,” said Senator Feinstein. “Our bill would provide additional resources and make it easier for the federal government to work with state, local and tribal leaders to work together to prevent toxic dust clouds from blowing into neighboring communities and preserve habitat for migratory birds.”
“We need more action to address the pressing environmental and public health crisis at the Salton Sea,” said Dr. Ruiz. “My bill, the Salton Sea Projects Improvements Act, urgently opens up more resources and adds more flexibility to add more shovels to the ground on projects that protect the public’s health. I am impatient with our progress and will never stop working to strengthen our all-hands-on-deck approach to the environmental hazard at the Salton Sea.”
Padilla, Feinstein, and Ruiz also recently sent a letter to Congressional leadership earlier this month asking that the Salton Sea Projects Improvements Act be included in any upcoming infrastructure legislation.
Padilla recently secured $200,000 in the Senate Appropriations Committee’s Energy and Water bill to support the Salton Sea Authority and US Army Corps of Engineers’ Salton Sea Perimeter Lake Feasibility Study to facilitate the development of long-term solutions for public health and environmental impacts of the Salton Sea.
On October 30, 1992, the Reclamation Projects Authorization and Adjustment Act was signed into law, which established the Salton Sea Research Project at the Bureau of Reclamation. Under this authority, Reclamation could engage in projects to research methods to control salinity, protect habitat, enhance fisheries, and protect recreational opportunities. Under this current authorization, Reclamation is severely limited in its ability to participate in the Salton Sea Management Program run by the State of California, due both to funding constraints and the requirement that all projects have a research function.
After nearly thirty years of research-related projects and other studies, the Salton Sea Projects Improvements Act would help ensure that Reclamation is able to contribute meaningfully to large-scale public health protection and environmental restoration projects.
Over the past few years, Reclamation has contributed to the following projects at the Salton Sea:
- In 2019, Reclamation allocated approximately $800,000 in partnership with Riverside County to rehabilitate the shore and restore boat access near the North Shore Yacht Club.
- In October 2020, Reclamation awarded $700,000 to Audubon California for restoration efforts near Bombay Beach.
- In June 2021, Reclamation announced approximately $1 million for the Desert Shores Channel Restoration Project which is expected to break ground in 2022.