California Legislature Passes Senator Hueso’s Salton Sea Restoration Act
San Diego, CA – September 15, 2017 – The California State Legislature held its final vote Wednesday to approve SB 615: Salton Sea Restoration Act, authored by Senator Ben Hueso (D-San Diego). The bill passed both houses with bipartisan support and is now on its way to the Governor for action.
Senate Bill 615 will create efficiencies for construction facilities to separate fresh water from highly saline water for the purposes of implementing restoration activities. The legislation also recognizes the role of the State Water Resources Control Board in the restoration of the Salton Sea.
The Salton Sea is California’s largest inland water body with beneficial uses that include fisheries and wildlife habitat, and preservation of endangered species. Moreover, the Salton Sea ecosystem is a critical link on the international Pacific Flyway and supports more than 400 species of birds. Unfortunately, the Salton Sea is threatened by increasing salinity and reduced flows. These changes increasingly threaten the unparalleled wildlife resources at the sea, as well as air quality in the region.
The exposed playas, for instance, have resulted in a spike in asthma rates at a detriment to the health of children. A recent study placed the number of children with asthma in Imperial County alone at 12,000.
“Those most impacted by the detriments of the Sea are our most innocent,” said Hueso. “Many of their families cannot leave, especially when considering that Imperial County has a 20 percent poverty rate among its population.”
The problems of the Salton Sea are not just a local issue for those in the surrounding areas. Dust stirred up by playa exposure travels as far as the coast of Malibu and Santa Monica, making it a statewide issue of concern.
“The timing is ripe for the state to step in and follow through with the commitment it made in the 2003 Quantification Settlement Agreement,” said Hueso. “It is our hope that this legislation will begin that process and facilitate further restoration efforts for the Salton Sea.”