Governor Proposes $220 Million for Salton Sea Projects as Part of 2020-21 State Budget
Salton Sea Management Program Update – January 21, 2020
Also: Senators, Congressional Representatives Support State Application for Federal Funds for SCH; Secretaries Respond to Imperial County Request
Governor Newsom has proposed a climate resilience bond that would include an additional $220 million in funding for the Salton Sea Management Program (SSMP). The bond, targeted for the November ballot and announced as part of the Governor’s January 10 budget, would bring the State’s total financial commitment to $891 million for important work at the Salton Sea in the near future.
The proposed $220 million in funding would support implementation of the Salton Sea Management Program, a 10-year plan that aims to improve conditions by constructing 30,000 acres of habitat and dust suppression projects around the Sea. The state already has committed up to $210 million for the first major project as part of the SSMP, the 3,770-acre Species Conservation Habitat (SCH) at the southern end of the Sea along the New River.
The SCH is expected to break ground later this year and be completed by the end of 2023. In addition, up to 9,000 acres of dust suppression projects will begin breaking ground this year on some of the most emissive areas of the receding Sea.
The Governor’s proposed climate resilience bond would support investments over the next five years to reduce specific climate risks across the state through long-term investment in natural and built infrastructure, especially in the state’s most climate-vulnerable communities.
The Governor’s budget also proposes $18 million from the state’s General Fund for the New River Improvement Project, which aims to improve water quality in the New River. Another $10 million from Proposition 68 is also proposed for the project, bringing the total to $28 million.
More information on the proposed climate resilience bond is available on the Department of Finance Website.
Senators, Congressional Representatives Support State Application for Federal Funds for SCH
Members of California’s congressional delegation have voiced support for the Department of Water Resources’ application for $7 million in financial assistance for the Species Conservation Habitat (SCH) project through the Natural Resources Conservation Service’s Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP).
In a January 15 letter to U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue, U.S. Senators Dianne Feinstein and Kamala Harris joined U.S. Representatives Raul Ruiz and Juan Vargas in supporting DWR’s application to help fund implementation of the SCH, which is the first major project the state is implementing under the Salton Sea Management Program 10-Year Plan.
DWR’s proposal “represents a significant opportunity to increase the federal-state partnership for this critically important project,” the letter states. “Congress enacted multiple changes to the RCPP in order to facilitate work at places like the Salton Sea, and we have written your Department on several occasions in order to urge you to quickly implement these new flexible authorities to address the problems at the Sea.”
Under the 2018 Farm Bill, the RCPP is now a stand-alone program with its own funding totaling $300 million annually to support projects that demonstrate innovative solutions to natural resource challenges.
The SCH project area encompasses 3,770 acres of exposed lakebed at the southern end of the sea, and spans part of the New River. It is located about eight miles northeast of the town of Westmorland in Imperial County.
The project is aimed at creating habitat and preventing further degradation of air quality. It will anchor phase one of the SSMP, which focuses on constructing wetlands and other projects to reduce exposed lakebed and health hazards posed by airborne dust from exposed playa.
The state expects to award a design-build contract in late summer 2020. Project construction will begin as soon as possible after the contract is awarded. The state has committed up to $210 million for the project, which is expected to be completed by the end of 2023.
Secretaries Respond to Imperial County Request
California Natural Resources Secretary Wade Crowfoot and Environmental Protection Secretary Jared Blumenfeld sent a letter to Imperial County Supervisor Ryan Kelley on January 6 underscoring the state’s commitment to work with the county and other partners to improve conditions at the Salton Sea.
The letter was sent in response to a November 4, 2019, letter from Imperial County to Governor Gavin Newsom identifying resource and equipment needs related to the county’s Proclamation of Local Emergency for Air Pollution at the Salton Sea.
“Our agencies agree that the receding Salton Sea poses an urgent public health challenge for communities surrounding the Sea that already suffer from poor air quality,” Crowfoot and Blumenfeld wrote, adding that active discussions are underway to explore the possibility of securing hazard mitigation funding for the county’s resource and equipment needs.
The letter noted that state agencies are advancing several projects outlined in the 10-Year SSMP, which will improve conditions by constructing 30,000 acres of dust suppression and habitat projects around the sea. The state has already started the federally-required National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) environmental planning process for the SSMP that will facilitate permitting for the full 30,000 acres of SSMP projects. This work will start to show results in coming months as important projects break ground.
“Significant work is underway to address the concerns outlined in your letter, and more will be done in the future. The state intends to remain an active and committed partner with Imperial County and other local and federal agencies in addressing Salton Sea-related air quality challenges,” the letter stated.
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