Builds Upon Previous Project Funding
The largest body of water within California is now getting another large chunk of funding. As part of Gov. Gavin Newsom’s $5.1 billion water infrastructure, drought response, and climate resilience proposal, $220 million is earmarked for the Salton Sea restoration. This is in addition to the $200 million previously secured with Proposition 68.
Addressing environmental issues
The Species Conservation Habitat Project (SCH) broke ground in January 2021 in an effort to implement dust suppression and build wetlands habitat across 40,000 acres of exposed playa. As the Salton Sea has shrunk in size — surface elevation has dropped about 9.5 feet since 2003 — wind-borne dust pollution affects the region and nearby communities. The SCH is slated to create several types of habitat areas to accommodate a variety of shorebirds, wading birds and waterfowl.
“The Governor’s new water infrastructure proposal brings big news and potentially big dollars for the Salton Sea. Working in active coordination with the Governor and his administration, we are grateful to have the Governor’s support to ramp up Salton Sea mitigation efforts and excited for this opportunity to build on our progress with an additional $220 million state investment,” Assembly member Eduardo Garcia, (D-Coachella) stated in a May 10 release.
During the first week of May, Garcia convened a special Water, Parks, and Wildlife Committee informational hearing on California drought preparedness, highlighting the need for additional investments in climate resilience. He also introduced Assembly Bill 1500 this year. It is a climate resilience bond that includes $240 million for the Salton Sea and $15 million for the New River. Per the release from his office, “this initiative goes hand in hand to achieve Governor Newsom’s water infrastructure and climate resilience goals for California.”
According to data in the 2021 Salton Sea Management Program annual report, the state remains far behind reaching important benchmarks for this project, but state officials remain optimistic.
“The enormity of the challenge of the Salton Sea, frankly, I think was paralyzing to state government for a long time,” California Natural Resources Agency Secretary Wade Crowfoot said after the January groundbreaking. “The size, the cost, the complexity resulted in agencies not taking action.”
In addition to addressing the environmental issues, this project would create approximately 3,000 jobs and marks the state’s first large-scale project to create habitat and reduce exposed lakebed around the Salton Sea.