County officials applaud new Salton Sea funding

Gov. Gavin Newsom’s $5.1 billion water infrastructure, drought response, and climate resilience proposal, includes $220 million for the Salton Sea. FILE PHOTO

EL CENTRO — Newly announced state funding for the Salton Sea is expected to maximize habitat outcomes and provide immediate economic relief to the community.

Gov. Gavin Newsom’s $5.1 billion water infrastructure, drought response and climate resilience proposal, which he announced Monday as part of his $100 billion “California Comeback Plan,” includes $220 million for the Salton Sea.

At Tuesday’s Imperial County Board of Supervisors meeting on Tuesday, District 1 Supervisor Jesus Eduardo Escobar wanted to know what is meant by providing immediate economic relief to the community and how this would occur. He also asked if the $220 million was part of the master plan and whether the funds would be used for restoration purposes.

Assemblymember Eduardo Garcia, D-Coachella, said this has yet to be determined.

“Additional state investment will support the timely execution of the 10-year plan of the Salton Sea Management Program and other efforts underway between state and local agencies,” Garcia said.

Garcia said he looks forward to seeing specifics of the governor’s proposal unveiled and continued engagement with Newsom’s administration and his own legislative colleagues to secure these funds and put them to use.

He said the funds would address the region’s disproportionately high asthma and unemployment rates.

Investments to get these projects off the ground, he added, will help improve air quality and public health, maximize habitat, and revitalize the community with new job opportunities.           

“We are eager to use this positive momentum to move forward with the Desert Shores Channel Restoration Project and the North Lake Pilot Projects,” he said, adding that projects in both counties have been generating a lot of local interest and would provide a variety of community health, ecological and economic benefits.

The Imperial Irrigation District was also pleased to hear about the proposed funding.

Division 2 Director JB Hamby said that for decades, the concerns of Imperial Valley families and the IID were ignored as the impacts of water transfers to the wealthy coast meant worse air and water quality every year at the Salton Sea.

Newsom visited the Salton Sea months prior to being elected governor and pledged to be different. “The $220 million he dedicated as part of the California Comeback plan is clear evidence of his commitment to the sea and the Imperial Valley,” Hamby said.

“In less than seven years, Assemblyman Garcia has successfully worked to gather what is approaching $1 billion of funding for mitigation efforts at the Salton Sea — success unmatched by any other individual or agency of the State of California or the federal government,” he said.

Hamby said he would like to express his gratitude to Newsom and Garcia for their commitment to action at the Salton Sea for the benefit of the people and wildlife of the Imperial Valley.

Garcia, chair of the Assembly Committee on Water, Parks, and Wildlife, said the $5.1 billion water infrastructure, drought response, and climate resilience proposal, is a positive step.

“The governor’s new water infrastructure proposal brings big news and potentially big dollars for the Salton Sea,” Garcia stated in a press release.

“Working in active coordination with the governor and his administration, we are grateful to have (his) support to ramp up Salton Sea mitigation efforts and am excited for this opportunity to build on our progress with an additional $220 million state investment.” 

The $220 million would reinforce the $200 million previously secured in Proposition 68 and align with the current legislative push to unlock $240 million for the Salton Sea along with other necessary allocations for community climate resilience and water infrastructure investments.

“The clock is ticking, and we must focus all of our energy to bring home these funds, meet our mitigation benchmarks, and improve the urgent public health, ecological, and economic conditions for our region,” Garcia said. 

Earlier this year Garcia introduced AB 1500, a climate resilience bond that includes $240 million for the Salton Sea and $15 million for the New River, This initiative goes hand in hand to achieve Newsom’s water infrastructure and climate resilience goals for California, he said.

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