Ruiz, Vargas Push for Progress on the Red Hill Bay Project

May 20, 2021
Press Release
Congressional Oversight Effort Addresses Delays in the First Large-Scale Salton Sea Habitat Project

Washington, D.C. – Today, Congressmen Raul Ruiz, M.D. (CA-36) and Juan Vargas (CA-51) sent inquiries to the Imperial Irrigation District (IID) and the United States Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) to identify the cause of delays and establish a path towards completion of the Red Hill Bay Project at the Salton Sea. Recent public reporting has indicated that progress on the project has stalled and that both IID and the FWS have outstanding obligations to the finish the project. Reps. Ruiz and Vargas wrote to IID and FWS – both key partners in the project’s construction – to investigate the causes for the delay and call for expedited completion on behalf of their constituents.  

The Salton Sea is the most pressing environmental and public health challenge facing my constituents,” Reps. Ruiz and Vargas wrote in the letters. “The Red Hill Bay Project will not only contribute to the improved health of the Sea and the surrounding communities but will also demonstrate to the public that cooperation between federal, state, and local agencies and organizations can lead to successful environmental protection projects.” 

Rep. Ruiz and former Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA) played a critical role working with President Obama’s Interior Secretary Ken Salazar to facilitate a federal partnership and break ground on the Red Hill Bay Project in 2015.  

You can read Reps. Ruiz and Vargas’ letters to the IID and Fish and Wildlife Service here.  


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.  

In 2015, the Red Hill Bay Project broke ground as the first large-scale shovel-ready project that broke ground to address the adverse health, environmental, and economic effects associated with the receding Salton Sea. The project is a joint effort between IID and the FWS located on land owned by IID at the southern end of the lake.  

This project was designed to create over 600 acres of shallow saline ponds by mixing water from the Salton Sea and the Alamo River. These ponds would facilitate new habitat for birds, while also preventing dust from emerging into the air.  

In June 2020, the Imperial County Air Pollution Control District issued Notices of Violation to both IID and FWS related to dust emissions from the incomplete project.