gets $200M for projects
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.
Posts reflect in the water on a hazy, summer day at the Salton Sea in California. IMPERIAL