October 17, 2017, Sacramento, Calif. — Late Sunday night, Governor Jerry Brown signed Senate Bill (SB) 5, California Drought, Water, Parks, Climate Coastal Protection and Outdoor Access for All Act of 2018. If voters pass the bond in June 2018, SB 5 would provide $4 billion in much-needed funding for California’s parks and water infrastructure, including at least $200 million to implement air quality and habitat projects at the Salton Sea – home to hundreds of bird species in Southern California.
The following are statements from conservation groups in response to Governor Brown’s action on the Salton Sea:
Kim Delfino, California program director for Defenders of Wildlife, said:
“Governor Brown has taken the first step in providing a critical down payment in the effort to avoid a health and environmental crisis at the Salton Sea. Next, voters will decide the fate of the Salton Sea at the ballot box. We all need to work together to make sure the Salton Sea does not collapse and become an epicenter of wildlife extinction or a public health threat to 1.6 million people in the area.”
Michael Lynes, director of public policy for Audubon California, stated:
“Including funding for the Salton Sea in Senate Bill 5 demonstrates the state’s commitment to address the public health and environmental crisis, but putting up money is just the first step. It is well past time for the state to build projects on the ground to meet its obligations and bolster public confidence that success is possible at the Salton Sea.”
Kathryn Phillips, director of Sierra Club California, stated:
“Signing this bill is an important step toward improving California’s environment. Now voters will have the chance next year to approve new and expanded parks, water quality improvements, and needed funds to make sure the Salton Sea doesn’t become a dangerous and costly air pollution source.”
Michael Cohen, senior associate for the Pacific Institute, said:
“The governor’s signature marks an important next step for the Salton Sea, heralding the greatest potential amount of funding to date and – we hope – signaling greater attention and urgency from the state agencies tasked with putting much-needed projects on the ground. In less than three months, the Sea’s rate of decline will triple; state agencies need to address the impacts of that decline with a commensurate level of effort and urgency.”
Pablo Garza, California political director on ecosystems for the Environmental Defense Fund said:
“More than any other prior measure, SB 5 directs funding to the neighborhoods and regions that need it most. This includes a much-needed $200 million investment in the Salton Sea that helps the state honor its commitment to restore and manage the Sea thereby avoiding dire public health, environmental, and economic impacts that will result if no action is taken.”
In 2003, California committed to funding mitigation and restoration at the Salton Sea to address widespread habitat loss and dust emissions. Over the years, there have been legislative proposals, public hearings, meetings and planning sessions, but no new habitat or dust control has been constructed to date.
Due to existing agreements, the Salton Sea will begin receiving substantially less water in 2018 than it has in the past, eventually as much as 40 percent less. The shrinking sea could expose more than 60,000 acres of the lakebed, generating massive dust storms that would negatively impact over 1.6 million people in the area and more than 420 species of birds.
Birds rely on the deep water, shoreline, mudflats and wetlands at the Salton Sea, as well as the river channels and agricultural drains leading into it. Fish and invertebrates still exist in the Sea, providing essential food for many species, including California brown pelican, American white pelican, double-crested cormorant and Caspian tern. Perhaps the Sea’s greatest value for birds is its ability to support large numbers of migratory birds during the winter months, including up to 75 percent of North America’s eared grebes, 50 percent of ruddy ducks and 30 percent of American white pelicans. The mudflats and shorelines are also essential for hundreds of thousands of migrating shorebirds.
WHAT’S NEXT: Now that Governor Brown has signed SB 5, the bond is now headed to the voters for approval on the June 2018 ballot.
Defenders of Wildlife is dedicated to the protection of all native animals and plants in their natural communities. With nearly 1.2 million members and activists, Defenders of Wildlife is a leading advocate for innovative solutions to safeguard our wildlife heritage for generations to come. For more information, visit Newsroom.Defenders.org and follow us on Twitter @DefendersNews.
The Pacific Institute is a global water think tank that creates and advances solutions to some of the world’s most pressing water challenges through interdisciplinary research and by partnering with a variety of stakeholders. Founded in 1987 and based in Oakland, California, the Pacific Institute envisions a world in which society, the economy, and the environment have the water they need to thrive now and in the future.