Dr. Ruiz Leads Bipartisan Group of Southern California Lawmakers' Push for Governor-elect Newsom to Visit the Salton Sea
PALM DESERT, CA — Today, Dr. Raul Ruiz (D-Palm Desert), along with a bipartisan group of Southern California lawmakers called on Governor-elect Newsom to make management of the Salton Sea a priority for his Administration and to visit the Sea within his first six months of taking office. As Lieutenant Governor, Governor-elect Newsom recognized that the Salton Sea’s public health and environmental challenges have not received the attention and resources they deserve. Renewing the state’s commitment to spearheading mitigation and habitat restoration projects will be critical to protecting the health and economies of all of Southern California.
The letter was signed by: Rep. Raul Ruiz, M.D. (CA-36), Juan Vargas (CA-51), Salud O. Carbajal (CA-24), Grace F. Napolitano (CA-32), Mark Takano (CA-41), Duncan Hunter (CA-50), and Ken Calvert (CA-42).
"As an emergency medicine physician, I treated countless patients gasping for breath during severe asthma attacks, which will likely worsen as the shoreline recedes. Bottom line, the Salton Sea is one of the most pressing environmental and public health issues facing Southern California, and Governor-elect Newsom must make mitigating its decline a priority in the first months of his Administration,” said Dr. Ruiz. “With Governor-elect Newsom’s support and leadership, we can continue the all-hands-on-deck, multi-stakeholder approach that is starting to deliver the kind of real, pragmatic results our communities have been demanding for decades.”
The full text of the letter is included below:
Dear Governor-elect Newsom:
Congratulations on your recent election as the next Governor of California. There are many important issues facing California, and as you begin your new administration we encourage you to make managing and mitigating the decline of the Salton Sea a top priority. As a demonstration of this commitment, we are inviting you to visit the Salton Sea during your first six months in office to meet with local officials and stakeholders and conduct a tour of the shoreline.
The Salton Sea is a critical environmental landmark in Southern California. Stretching across Riverside and Imperial Counties, the Sea is a natural habitat for fish and migratory birds, an essential part of the local agricultural economy, and was once a burgeoning tourist destination. However, because of changes in agricultural water flows, California’s chronic drought conditions, and the expiration of mitigation flow requirement as part of the Quantification Settlement Agreement (QSA) at the end of 2017, the future of the Salton Sea is in jeopardy. We cannot afford to sit idle. In fact, one study put the cost of inaction at more than $70 billion over the next thirty years.
The rapidly approaching environmental and public health disaster at the Salton Sea affects not only local residents, but also individuals as far away as Los Angeles. Since the expiration of the mitigation water requirement of the QSA last year, the shoreline has begun to recede at an accelerated pace, further exposing toxic dust particles that can cause respiratory distress, asthma, and cardiovascular disease. Unless the state is able to follow through on impactful projects to mitigate the exposed playa, the public health consequences will be severe.
The State of California has long played a leading role in the management of the Salton Sea. In 2017, Governor Brown released the state’s Salton Sea Management Plan, a 10-year plan that addresses the receding shoreline through a series of scalable projects. Phase 1 of the plan, which is currently underway, includes habitat restoration projects such as the Red Hill Bay Project on the southern shore and the Torres-Martinez Wetland project along the northern edge. In addition, the plan sets dust suppression, mitigation, and rehabilitation targets for the next decade while also planning for projects in future phases. The State Plan is a critical step in the right direction, and its success hinges on the continued support of state and local officials to provide the direction and resources required.
Addressing the future of the Salton Sea and the mitigation of its harmful environmental effects is of the utmost importance, and we strongly encourage you to make it a priority of your administration. We appreciate your attention as Lieutenant Governor, and as Governor, your voice and personal advocacy will be critical to any successful effort to reach a solution and move projects forward.
We appreciate your consideration of this invitation and we are looking forward to working together to build on the progress made at the Salton Sea and realize a future that safeguards the health and economic well-being of the communities we represent.
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