Padilla, Feinstein, Ruiz, Vargas Applaud Historic $250 Million Federal Investment at the Salton Sea
WASHINGTON, D.C. — Today, U.S. Senators Alex Padilla and Dianne Feinstein, as well as Representatives Raul Ruiz and Juan Vargas, (all D-Calif.) applauded the Department of the Interior’s announcement that it will invest $250 million over several years in California’s Salton Sea Management Program (SSMP) from funds included in the Inflation Reduction Act for drought resiliency. The four lawmakers specifically advocated for the drought funding to apply to inland water bodies like the Salton Sea.
California’s SSMP includes a 10-year plan that aims to protect public health and improve ecosystem conditions by constructing 30,000 acres of habitat and dust suppression projects around the Sea.
“This announcement marks the most meaningful federal investment at the Salton Sea in history, allowing us to more effectively address the public health and environmental disasters at the Salton Sea,” said Senator Padilla. “As part of California’s commitment to stabilize the Colorado River Basin, I was proud to advocate for the inclusion of $4 billion for drought resiliency in the Inflation Reduction Act. As California continues to lead the way on conservation efforts in the Colorado River Basin, we are grateful to the Department of the Interior and the Bureau of Reclamation for stepping up in partnership with California to carry out additional conservation projects.”
“The receding Salton Sea continues to threaten the health of neighboring communities as toxic elements like arsenic and selenium are exposed and spread by strong desert winds,” said Senator Feinstein. “The $250 million provided by the Biden administration will help reduce the toxic dust that threaten public health and restore vital habit for migratory birds.”
“The Bureau of Reclamation’s $250 million investment in California’s Salton Sea Management Plan will bring crucial resources to our communities and help protect our region’s health, environment, and economy,” said Congressman Raul Ruiz, M.D. (CA-36). “I’m glad to see Reclamation heed my calls to use drought mitigation funding under the Inflation Reduction Act to address the environmental and public health crisis at the Sea. This investment is welcome news for our communities and an acknowledgment of the crucial role the federal government should and must take to clean up the Sea.”
“I’m extremely pleased that $250 million from the Inflation Reduction Act will go toward restoration and conservation efforts in the Salton Sea,” said Rep. Juan Vargas. “This funding will make a crucial difference for the environment and communities in my district. I thank the Department of Interior, Bureau of Reclamation, California Department of Natural Resources, Imperial Irrigation District, and Coachella Valley Water District for their continued efforts to address Salton Sea restoration. I’m proud to have voted for the Inflation Reduction Act to make historic funding like this possible, and I’m dedicated to continuing working for my district in Congress.”
Under the agreement, the Interior Department’s Bureau of Reclamation will provide $22 million in new funding through the Inflation Reduction Act in fiscal year 2023 to implement projects at the Sea, support staffing at the Torres Martinez Desert Cahuilla Indian Tribe, and conduct scientific research and management that contributes to project implementation. Reclamation will also provide an additional $228 million over the next four years to expedite existing projects and bolster staffing capacity at the water agencies to help deliver new projects. This $250 million investment from the Inflation Reduction Act will complement the $583 million in state funding committed to date.
Earlier this year, Senator Padilla worked to ensure that the Inflation Reduction Act included $4 billion for drought resiliency and inland waterways, including for projects to mitigate the Salton Sea’s toxic ecosystem and public health impacts. Padilla, Feinstein, Ruiz, and Vargas have also called on the Interior Department, Agriculture Department and Army Corps of Engineers to jointly develop a near-term funding plan to restore wildlife habitat along the Salton Sea and prevent toxic dust from federal land from blowing into the surrounding communities.
California and the Western United States remain under threat by extreme drought and record heat. According to the U.S. Drought Monitor, over 70 percent of the Western states are classified as experiencing some level of drought, with nearly 30 percent of Western land experiencing extreme or exceptional drought.
The $4 billion in drought resiliency funding included in the Inflation Reduction Act, from which the $250 million for the Salton Sea will be drawn, will provide critical new tools for the federal government to help mitigate the impact of drought in the Western United States. For example, the Bureau of Reclamation is using this new funding to compensate water users for voluntary water use reductions, with a priority for users who receive water from the Colorado River, which will help blunt impacts to California communities as the state continues its collaborative efforts to sustain the Colorado River. It will also expand on California’s existing water conservation efforts by funding investments in urban and agricultural water use efficiency projects, including through the installation of drought-resilient landscaping and water-saving measures like canal lining and leveling of drainage ditches.