The San Diego County Water Authority is joining with other stakeholders in sending a message to the Legislature that while the $80.5 million proposed in the Governor’s budget is a good start, we are urging for a greater share of Proposition 1 funding for the Salton Sea. You will recall that Prop. 1 included $475 million for State environmental settlement projects of which the Sea was identified as one project among others that would qualify for funding. The governor’s proposed $80.5 million in funding for the Sea was a welcome step. However, that amount fell short of the amount stakeholders had hoped for—an amount more in the range of over $100 million.
In a letter to the Senate and Assembly budget subcommittees, the Water Authority urges for additional funding for the Sea with the idea that there is a growing list of “shovel-ready” projects that could get started or be expanded should the State increase the Sea’s share of the Prop. 1 funding.
Species Conservation Habitat, a State-led project, will begin work toward the end of this year. The project calls for the building of deep-water ponds that would serve as fish habitat, serve the needs of migratory birds and provide dust control. The project environmental documents are for a project totaling nearly 4,000 acres. Current funding would cover phase one of the project—640 acres. Additional funding could expand that project, which right now is being funded through the State’s Salton Sea Restoration Fund, a mix of Proposition 84 funding and restoration funding provided by three water agencies, the Water Authority, the Imperial Irrigation District and the Coachella Valley Water District, under the Quantification Settlement Agreement.
Those three water agencies serve as the funding members of the QSA Joint Powers Authority, established to provide mitigation for the impacts of the QSA up to $287 million in nominal dollars (over the life of the QSA). The JPA is developing a series of pilot projects for dust control—including but not limited to habitat creation, surface roughening and vegetation—and those projects could be expanded with additional Prop. 1 funding.
Then, the Imperial irrigation District has proposed a backbone infrastructure project that includes management of agricultural return flows and New and Alamo inflows to the Sea. The Water Authority supports the conceptual analysis of IID’s project, the design of which benefit from State funding beyond the work IID has already done.
For the first time, the State and the Governor’s Administration are showing signs of prioritizing the Sea. The $80.5 million proposal is a good first step, but more needs to be done. Expanding Prop. 1 funding to the Sea is a crucial next step. We join with our QSA partners and other stakeholders on the Sea in advocating for those additional funds and continued State support for the Sea.