Ruiz Announces New Legislation to Expand Federal Authority at the Salton Sea

June 15, 2021
Press Release
The Salton Sea Projects Improvements Act would help strengthen an all-hands-on-deck approach to the urgent public health crisis at the Sea.

Washington, D.C. – Today, Congressman Raul Ruiz, M.D. (CA-36) introduced new legislation to drive federal investment at the Salton Sea. H.R. 3877, the Salton Sea Projects Improvements Act, would significantly expand the ability of the Bureau of Reclamation at the Department of the Interior (Reclamation) to partner with state, local, and Tribal governments, as well as other entities to address the public health and environmental crisis at the Salton Sea.  

Ruiz’s legislation would modernize the Salton Sea Research Program (P.L. 102-575) to explicitly authorize Reclamation to be the federal partner on projects to improve air and water quality, restore fish and wildlife habitat, and improve public health at the Salton Sea. The bill also increases the amount Reclamation is able to spend at the Salton Sea from $10 million to $250 million.  

“We need more action to address the pressing environmental and public health crisis at the Salton Sea,” said Dr. Ruiz.“My bill, the Salton Sea Projects Improvements Act, urgently opens up more resources and adds more flexibility to add more shovels to the ground on projects that protect the public’s health. I am impatient with our progress and will never stop working to strengthen our all-hands-on-deck approach to the environmental hazard at the Salton Sea.” 

“The Department of Interior estimates that addressing the exposed shoreline on federal land could cost hundreds of millions of dollars. This new legislation would substantially increase the funding Interior may invest at the Salton Sea in partnership with the Salton Sea Authority to address these and other federal obligations. If enacted, the new bill would provide an important new tool in our efforts to revitalize the Salton Sea and surrounding communities,” said G. Patrick O’Dowd, Salton Sea Authority Executive Director.  

“As one of the principal landowners at the Salton Sea, the federal government has the responsibility and opportunity to create meaningful change for communities and the environment,” said Frank Ruiz, director of Audubon California’s Salton Sea Program. “Current law limits the Bureau of Reclamation from participating fully in restoration projects at the Sea. This legislation expands their abilities and pushes the federal government to participate more fully and effectively in projects there. Now is an opportunity for the federal government to leverage significant state investments in capacity and funding to secure the future of the Sea for people and wildlife.” 

BACKGROUND 

For decades, inflows to the Salton Sea have been reduced, resulting in thousands of acres of exposed lakebed and rapidly declining water quality that threaten the local ecosystem and public health of surrounding communities.  

On October 30, 1992, the Reclamation Projects Authorization and Adjustment Act was signed into law, which established the Salton Sea Research Project at the Bureau of Reclamation.  

Under this authority, Reclamation could engage in projects to research methods to control salinity, protect habitat, enhance fisheries, and protect recreational opportunities.  

Under this current authorization, Reclamation is severely limited in its ability to participate in the Salton Sea Management Program run by the State of California, due both to funding constraints and the requirement that all projects have a research function. 

After nearly thirty years of research-related projects and other studies, the Salton Sea Projects Improvements Act would help ensure that Reclamation is able to contribute meaningfully to large-scale public health protection and environmental restoration projects.   

Over the past few years, Reclamation has contributed to the following projects at the Salton Sea: 

  • In 2019, Reclamation allocated approximately $800,000 in partnership with Riverside County to rehabilitate the shore and restore boat access near the North Shore Yacht Club. 
  • In October 2020, Reclamation awarded $700,000 to Audubon California for restoration efforts near Bombay Beach.  
  • In June 2021, Reclamation announced approximately $1 million for the Desert Shores Channel Restoration Project which is expected to break ground in 2022.  

You can read more about Dr. Ruiz’s bill here

 

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