Proposed Legislation Would Bring Major Federal Investment to the Salton Sea

November 19, 2020, Washington, D.C. – Today, Congressman Raul Ruiz, M.D. (CA-36) introduced H.R. 8775, the Salton Sea Public Health and Environmental Protection Act with Rep. Juan Vargas (CA-51). The legislation would bring significant federal funding to the Salton Sea while streamlining projects; increasing coordination between local, state, and federal officials; and holding federal agencies accountable to their commitments at the Salton Sea.

“We greatly appreciate Rep. Ruiz’s continued leadership and welcome this much needed legislation acknowledging federal responsibilities and obligations to the Salton Sea and public and environmental health,” said Michael Cohen of the Pacific Institute.

“We must work together to address the Salton Sea and protect the public’s health and economy,” said Dr. Ruiz. “My bill, the Salton Sea Public Health and Environmental Protection Act, will ensure an all-hands-on-deck approach that involves local, state, and federal coordination to address the urgent public health crisis at the Salton Sea. My bill will bring significant federal funding, streamline coordination, expedite projects, and ensure agencies follow through with their commitment to the Sea and my constituents.”

“We need resources and programs to address public health concerns, restore wildlife and habitat, and explore economic development opportunities in the Salton Sea region,” said Rep. Vargas. “I am joining my colleague Rep. Ruiz in introducing the Salton Sea Public Health and Environmental Protection Act as reducing the harmful effects of the receding Salton Sea remains a top priority in my district.”

“Limiting dust emissions and restoring habitat at the Salton Sea are high priorities for Governor Newsom and our Natural Resources Agency,” said Wade Crowfoot, Secretary of the California Natural Resources Agency. “While we are making progress, it is clear that federal government support and partnership are essential for us to stabilize and restore the Sea. We are encouraged by the introduction of H.R. 8875 by Rep. Raul Ruiz to advance federal government measures to protect the Salton Sea.”

“I commend Congressman Ruiz for his steadfast commitment to our Salton Sea community,” said Assemblymember Eduardo Garcia (D-Coachella). “As a physician, he understands the public health imperative facing families living around the Sea, and he has been fighting to turn the federal government’s attention to this issue. We are hopeful that this legislation will lead to the increased federal support and improved coordination needed to build upon California’s momentum to address this public health, economic, and environmental crisis.”

“The Salton Sea and its environmental, air quality, and water challenges are important concerns to our nation as a whole,” said Riverside County Supervisor and Salton Sea Authority Vice Chair V. Manuel Perez. “Expanding the federal partnership with the Salton Sea and bringing additional federal resources, such as a matching commitment to dust suppression and habitat projects, are concepts that would strongly enhance the efforts of the Salton Sea Authority and the State of California. I appreciated the opportunity to work with Congressman Raul Ruiz and offer input on this bill, and I appreciate our Congressman’s introduction of the Salton Sea Public Health and Environmental Protection Act as well as the first Congressional hearing in 23 years on the Salton Sea that he recently made happen.”

“Audubon deeply appreciates Rep. Ruiz’s leadership on the Salton Sea,” said Frank Ruiz, Audubon California’s Salton Sea program director. “As one of the largest landowners near the Salton Sea, the federal government bears an equally large responsibility for its decline, which is harming hundreds of thousands of people and hundreds of species of birds. This legislation will ensure that the federal government will meet its responsibilities at the Salton Sea, especially over the next few years. The months ahead are crucial to controlling dust emissions and providing habitat as the Sea continues to shrink.”

“We welcome Rep. Ruiz’s leadership and legislation on the Salton Sea,” said Pablo Garza of the Environmental Defense Fund. “By catalyzing more robust engagement from the federal government, this will go a long way to bringing much-needed relief to the long-overlooked communities and ecosystems around the Sea.”

A Section-by-Section can be found here.

The text of the bill can be found here.

Background

H.R. 8875, the Salton Sea Public Health and Environmental Protection Act, comes on the heels of the first Congressional hearing on the Salton Sea since 1997, which Dr. Ruiz worked to secure in the House Natural Resources Committee. During that hearing, California Natural Resources Committee Secretary Wade Crowfoot and Torres-Martinez Desert Cahuilla Indians Chairman Thomas Tortez both testified to the need for federal legislation to create a robust federal-state partnership to address the declining Salton Sea.

The legislation will create a federal Salton Sea Management Council, which will be tasked with identifying funding, streamlining project permitting, coordinating project implementation across federal, state, and local agencies. H.R. 8775 will hold federal agencies accountable by requiring annual progress reports and public health analyses.

The Bureau of Reclamation owns 79,000 acres under and around the Salton Sea. Reclamation has managed the Salton Sea as an agricultural drainage site since the early 1900s.

The Fish and Wildlife Service manages 35,000 acres of the Salton Sea as the Sonny Bono National Wildlife Refuge.

On March 7th, Dr. Ruiz hosted a tour of the Salton Sea featuring House Appropriations Energy and Water Subcommittee Chair Marcy Kaptur (D-OH), along with state, local, and federal officials.

On September 24th, the House Natural Resources Committee held the first hearing on the Salton Sea since 1997. Dr. Ruiz called for the hearing in September, 2019 in a letter with Rep. Vargas.

Learn more about the Pacific Institute’s work on the Salton Sea here

View current information on the Salton Sea here