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Brown Administration Advances Salton Sea Restoration

On October 9th, California Governor Jerry Brown signed AB 1095, which was sponsored by Assembly member Eduardo Garcia (D–Coachella), requiring the Natural Resources Agency to submit a list of shovel-ready restoration projects to the legislature by the end of March. The legislation defines “shovel-ready” as projects in the final planning, environmental review or permitting phases.

The Governor also announced a series of actions that the Natural Resources Agency will undertake based on recommendations of the Salton Sea Task Force. He highlighted a short-term goal to restore up to 12,000 acres of shoreline habitat over the next five years, a medium-term goal to restore up to 25,000 acres of shoreline habitat starting in 2020, and a guiding principle to convene a scientific advisory committee to make sure that the habitat restoration is guided by the best available science. The Natural Resources Agency is also being directed to immediately implement a Salton Sea management plan that meets air quality, natural resource habitat and economic development activities; work with Salton Sea and Colorado River partners to accelerate planning, permitting and construction of projects; and develop a public forum for local discussion of Salton Sea issues.

According to the administration, a management program is needed for regional air quality protection, restoration and protection of natural resources at the sea, and management of Colorado River water supplies.

“The Salton Sea has a long and storied history in California and with these key restoration projects, the state is helping protect air quality, while maintaining a viable water supply in the region,” said Governor Brown.

The Salton Sea is fed by agricultural runoff from the Imperial Valley, but fallowing to generate water supplies for the water transfer between Imperial Irrigation District (“IID”) and San Diego County Water Authority (“SDCWA”)—which is central to the QSA—will reduce inflows when deliveries of mitigation water cease at the end of 2017. As a result, there is a renewed push for Salton Sea restoration efforts. In November 2014, IID filed a petition with the State Water Resources Control Board to modify the 2002 water right order governing the IID-SDCWA water transfer to make Salton Sea restoration a condition of the transfer. In July of this year, IID released its own framework for restoration of the Salton Sea.  (For more on IID’s petition to the State Board, see “Imperial Irrigation District Petitions State Board for Salton Sea Restoration,” JOW January 2015. For more on IID’s Salton Sea Restoration Framework, see “Imperial Irrigation District Releases Comprehensive Framework For Salton Sea Restoration,” JOW September 2015).


Written by Marta L. Weismann