SALTON SEA

gets $200M for projects

Imperial Valley Press - - FRONT PAGE - BY ED­WIN DEL­GADO Staff Writer

SACRAMENTO — In dra­matic fash­ion and very late into the leg­isla­tive ses­sion, a bill that will pro­vide $200 mil­lion for Salton Sea mit­i­ga­tion projects is now headed to Gov. Jerry Brown’s desk who is ex­pected to sign the bill.

SB 5 passed both the As­sem­bly and the Se­nate with just enough votes to meet the re­quired two-thirds ma­jor­ity vote. It passed in the As­sem­bly with a 54-18 vote and a 27-9 vote in the Se­nate, giv­ing lo­cal of­fi­cials a sigh of re­lief, at least for now.

SB 5 — dubbed the Cal­i­for­nia Drought, Wa­ter, Parks, Cli­mate, Coastal Pro­tec­tion, and Out­door Ac­cess For All Act of 2018 — is a $4 bil­lion park bond au­thored by Se­nate’s pres­i­dent pro tem­pore Kevin De Leon and co-au­thored by mul­ti­ple law­mak­ers in­clud­ing Assem­bly­man Ed­uardo Gar­cia. It is de­signed to ad­dress nu­mer­ous needs re­lated to parks, open spa­ces, wa­ter and cli­mate change-re­lated is­sues fac­ing Cal­i­for­nia.

The bill has three ma­jor ar­eas of em­pha­sis: $1.2 bil­lion for park needs, $1.5 bil­lion for wa­ter-re­lated mat­ters and an­other $1.3 for cli­mate is­sues. The most note­wor­thy of those wa­ter-re­lated mat­ters lo­cally is the Salton Sea, which un­der this bill would get $200 mil­lion of ad­di­tional fund­ing.

“It was para­mount for Se­na­tor [Ben] Hueso and me to lock in sub­stan­tial mit­i­ga­tion funds for the Salton Sea; a loom­ing statewide en­vi­ron­men­tal and pub­lic health threat, lo­cated within our dis­tricts,” said Gar­cia in a state­ment. “I am grate­ful that fol­low­ing ne­go­ti­a­tions and the con­tin­ued ad­vo­cacy of our re­gional stake­hold­ers... The in­fu­sion of th­ese state dol­lars is im­per­a­tive to mit­i­gat­ing this im­mi­nent en­vi­ron­men­tal, eco­log­i­cal, pub­lic health and eco­nom­i­cal dis­as­ter.”

Two weeks ago, at the re­quest of Gar­cia, Gov. Brown met with of­fi­cials from Im­pe­rial and River­side coun­ties to dis­cuss the chal­lenges re­lated to the shrink­ing lake. One of the key points of the con­ver­sa­tion was SB 5, which Brown pledged to sup­port if the bill reached his desk. If signed by the Gov­er­nor, then the Park bond will have the green light to go to Cal­i­for­nia vot­ers dur­ing the June elec­tion.

Gar­cia said at that time the park bond in­creased the to­tal amount of fund­ing to be al­lo­cated to the Salton Sea to $280 mil­lion. How­ever, ear­lier this week in ne­go­ti­a­tions be­tween law­mak­ers, the amount of fund­ing was re­duced to $200 mil­lion, which will fund most of the Salton Sea Man­age­ment Pro­gram’s 10-year plan.

Chair­man of the Im­pe­rial County Board of Su­per­vi­sors Michael Kel­ley, who tes­ti­fied in the As­sem­bly two weeks ago in sup­port of the bill, said he’s con­fi­dent that the Cal­i­for­nia elec­torate will sup­port the bond.

“I’m re­ally pleased with the re­sult,” Kel­ley said.

Also, he noted that the pas­sage of the bill could en­cour­age the State Wa­ter Re­sources Con­trol Board to adopt the draft stip­u­lated or­der pre­sented Sept. 7 as the ef­forts on the Salton Sea con­tinue to gain mo­men­tum.

In March, the state’s Nat­u­ral Re­sources Agency un­veiled its 10-year plan, which in­tends to im­ple­ment a va­ri­ety of dust sup­pres­sion and habi­tat projects to cover nearly 30,000 acres of ex­posed lakebed in the next 10 years.

The in­tent of this plan is to build shal­low wa­ter ponds for habi­tat in mul­ti­ple ar­eas in the south­ern and north­ern tips of the sea where it is ex­pected the acreage of ex­posed lakebed will in­crease the most. Other dust sup­pres­sion meth­ods in­clude sur­face rough­en­ing, moat and row, sur­face sta­bi­liz­ers and grav­el­ing.

The to­tal price tag for the full 10-year plan is $383 mil­lion and to date, only the $80.5 mil­lion from last year has been al­lo­cated.

The end of the year is a key dead­line for the Salton Sea when mit­i­ga­tion wa­ter de­liv­er­ies man­dated by the 2003 wa­ter trans­fer will end. Mean­while, the Salton Sea is ex­pected to start re­ced­ing at a much faster pace leav­ing thou­sands of acres of emis­sive playa ex­posed.

Al­though the $200 mil­lion ear­marked to the Salton Sea in this bill won’t be enough to fully fund the 10-year plan, it will have some mech­a­nisms that could al­low for more monies for the mit­i­ga­tion ef­forts. The bill also in­cludes an ad­di­tional $200 mil­lion for the state to ful­fill wa­ter-re­lated obli­ga­tions and the Salton Sea may be en­ti­tled to a por­tion of that pot, but it re­mains un­clear how much.

Late on Fri­day night, Assem­bly­man Ed­uardo Gar­cia, one of the co-au­thors of the bill, in­tro­duced the leg­is­la­tion and asked his fel­low law­mak­ers to vote in fa­vor of the bond to en­sure Cal­i­for­ni­ans keep hav­ing ac­cess to the out­doors, while op­po­nents of the bill ex­pressed con­cern about added debt to the state if the bond were to be ap­proved.

The As­sem­bly vote on SB 5 took place Fri­day evening and ini­tially was 10 votes short of the 54 needed, forc­ing Gar­cia to put the vote on call to get ad­di­tional time to gain ad­di­tional sup­port. A few hours later near mid­night, once the vote was re­sumed, the re­main­ing votes needed came through to send the bill to the Se­nate.

SB 5 was the last bill the Se­nate took a vote on, close to 2 a.m. Satur­day morn­ing and the bill passed with no votes to spare. SB 5 ful­fill­ments also in­clude: n Al­lo­cates $218 mil­lion to help ad­dress the state’s se­vere de­ferred main­te­nance back­log for state park fa­cil­i­ties. n Des­ig­nates per capita al­lo­ca­tions for lo­cal parks, pro­vid­ing $200 mil­lion for grants to lo­cal com­mu­ni­ties with a min­i­mum grant of $200,000 to a city or district and $400,000 to coun­ties depend­ing on the grant­ing area. n $725 mil­lion and dis­ad­van­taged for pro­gram­safer­this mil­lion Pro­vides park-poor com­pet­i­tivepur­pose; neigh­bor­hoods­set­ting to com­mu­ni­tiespro­mote­grant for specif­i­cally aside $48 Central Val­ley, gate­way and de­sertn Con­tain­sru­ral, for com­mu­ni­ties. mul­ti­ple def­i­ni­tions to dis­tin­guish be­tweenand dis­ad­van­taged se­verely dis­ad­van­taged com­mu­ni­ties. n Pro­vides $80 mil­lion in com­pet­i­tive grants for treat­ment and re­me­di­a­tion ac­tiv­i­ties that re­duce con­tam­i­na­tion of ground­wa­ter that serves as a source of drink­ing wa­ter. n Per capita grants geared for ru­ral com­mu­ni­ties. n Pro­vides $25 mil­lion in ru­ral in­vest­ments, for com­pet­i­tive grants to com­mu­ni­ties in­clud­ing coun­ties with pop­u­la­tions of less than 500,000 people and low pop­u­la­tion den­si­ties per square mile. n Al­lo­cates $550 mil­lion for flood man­age­ment projects in­clud­ing those that would cover dam­ages within the Central Val­ley.

VAL­LEY PRESS FILE PHOTO

Posts re­flect in the wa­ter on a hazy, sum­mer day at the Salton Sea in Cal­i­for­nia. IM­PE­RIAL

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