California Federal Politicians Ask Biden to Fund Salton Sea to Restore Wildlife Habitat | News

Washington D.C.- Senators Dianne Feinstein and Alex Padilla and Representatives Raul Ruiz, Juan Vargas, Grace Napolitano and Jared Huffman appealed to the Ministry of the Interior, the Ministry of Agriculture and the Army Corps of Engineers on Tuesday, March 29, to jointly develop a short-term funding plan to restore wildlife habitat along the Salton Sea and prevent toxic dust from federal lands from blowing into surrounding communities, according to a recent Sierra Sun article Times.

“In recent years, water inflows into the Salton Sea, California’s largest lake, have declined sharply due to changing agricultural practices and water conservation efforts undertaken to stabilize water security. Colorado River Basin water supply,” the members wrote. “As the Salton Sea shrinks, toxic elements such as arsenic and selenium are exposed on 8.75 square miles of federally owned land. When strong desert winds spread this toxic dust widely, it harms disproportionately to disadvantaged communities surrounding the lake.

The full text of the letter follows:

March 29, 2022

The Honorable Deb Haaland

Secretary

US Department of the Interior

1849 C Street, NW

Washington, D.C. 20240

The Honorable Tom Vilsack

Secretary

United States Department of Agriculture

1400 Independence Avenue, Southwest

Washington, D.C. 20250

The Honorable Michael Connor

Assistant Secretary for Civil Works

United States Army Corps of Engineers

441 G Street N.W.

Washington, D.C. 20314

Dear Secretaries Haaland and Vilsack and Assistant Secretary Connor:

We are writing to ask you to jointly develop a short-term financing plan to fulfill the US government-recognized initial liability of landowners of at least $332.5 million over the next decade to manage the bed exposed from the Salton Sea lake. We ask that you prepare this short-term funding plan by December 31, 2022 in close coordination with the California Natural Resources Agency and the Salton Sea Authority, which is made up of locally elected leaders, the Torres Martinez Tribe and key agricultural districts in the region.

In recent years, water inflows into the Salton Sea, California’s largest lake, have declined sharply due to changing agricultural practices and water conservation efforts undertaken to stabilize water security. Colorado River Basin Water Supply. As the Salton Sea shrinks, toxic elements such as arsenic and selenium are exposed on 8.75 square miles of federally owned land. When strong desert winds spread this toxic dust widely, it disproportionately harms the poor communities surrounding the lake. In particular, Imperial County is 85% Mexican American and has one of the highest poverty and unemployment rates in the country. About 1 in 5 Imperial Valley residents have been diagnosed with asthma, more than double the national average, and pediatric ER visits for asthma and respiratory distress in the region (including Riverside County and tribal communities) are three times the California average. It is critical to the health and well-being of these communities that we work to mitigate the adverse effects of the receding Salton Sea as soon as possible.

Congress has called for immediate federal action to address the government landowner’s responsibility to protect the public health of these disadvantaged communities. The Joint Explanatory Report for the just-enacted FY2022 Omnibus Appropriations Bill directs Reclamation “to provide committees no later than 90 days after the enactment of this Act with a statement of Reclamation’s plan to manage air quality impacts from the estimated 8.75 square miles of land it owns that will emerge from the receding sea over the next decade.In its budget request for fiscal year 2021, the Interior estimated a short-term cost of $332.5 million to manage these lands ($38 million per square mile for the federally owned 8.75 square miles), plus $4.5 million in costs The Interior’s budget request warned that these cost estimates are “extremely conservative.”

Congress has provided your agencies with several well-funded programmatic authorities from which a short-term federal funding plan for Salton Sea can be derived, including through the Watershed Protection and Flood Prevention Act and various authorities from the Corps of Engineers and the Bureau of Reclamation. While we appreciate and strongly support the Corps’ inclusion of $1.5 million in its IIJA work plan to advance a feasibility study of the Salton Sea to contribute to federal funding for the management long-term Salton Sea project, we are keenly interested in any short-term funding the Corps could direct to meet immediate U.S. land ownership responsibilities.

We note that the Salton Sea funding plan we are requesting will significantly advance the Biden-Harris administration’s Executive Order 14008, which calls for 40% of federal infrastructure, energy and related investments must be allocated to disadvantaged communities such as those around the Salton Sea. The United States also bears tribal fiduciary responsibilities to the Torres Martinez Tribe.

While we believe that Congress has provided you with sufficient direction, authority, and funding to meet short-term obligations recognized by the United States in the Salton Sea, to reduce public health burdens on disadvantaged communities surrounding the lake and to further protect federal interests in the region over the long term, please let us know if additional congressional direction is needed to support this work. Thank you for your attention to this important subject.

Truly,

Source: Senator Dianne Feinstein Tuesday

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