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Bureau of Reclamation announces $250M federal investment at the Salton Sea

Update 11/29/22:

The Imperial Irrigation District board of directors voted 3-2 to unlock the first $22 million of the agreement.

Original Report 11/28/22:

The Department of Interior announced a historic agreement that will see a quarter of a billion dollars in funds go towards mitigating the impacts of the worsening drought crisis impacting the Salton Sea.

The agreement, which was established by Deputy Secretary Tommy Beaudreau and leaders from the California Natural Resources Agency, Imperial Irrigation District (IID) and Coachella Valley Water District (CVWD), will accelerate implementation of dust suppression and aquatic restoration efforts at the troubled lake.

"The Bureau of Reclamation's $250 million investment in California's Salton Sea Management Plan will bring crucial resources to our communities and help protect our region's health, environment, and economy,” said Congressman Dr. Raul Ruiz. “I'm glad to see Reclamation heed my calls to use drought mitigation funding under the Inflation Reduction Act to address the environmental and public health crisis at the Sea. This investment is welcome news for our communities and an acknowledgement of the crucial role the federal government should and must take to clean up the Sea."

Officials said the agreement, which is set for consideration by the IID board of directors on Tuesday, Nov. 29, will expedite the implementation of California’s 10-year plan and enable urgent water conservation needed to protect Colorado River reservoir storage volumes amid persistent climate change-driven drought conditions.

“The Biden-Harris administration is committed to bringing every resource to bear to help manage the drought crisis and provide a sustainable water system for families, businesses and our vast and fragile ecosystems. This landmark agreement represents a key step in our collective efforts to address the challenges the Colorado River Basin is facing due to worsening drought and climate change impacts,” said Deputy Secretary Beaudreau. “Historic investments from the Inflation Reduction Act will help to support the Imperial and Coachella Valley and the environment around the Salton Sea, as well as support California’s efforts to voluntarily save 400,000 acre-feet a year to protect critical elevations at Lake Mead.”  

The Salton Sea, California’s largest lake, is receding due to the drought crisis gripping the West and resulting in necessary conservation actions in the Imperial Valley that have reduced inflows to the Sea. Exposed lakebed is contributing to harmful dust emissions to the surrounding environment and reducing important environmental habitat for wildlife.  

News Channe 3 morning anchor Angela Chen has gone in-depth on the issues at the Salton Sea in her multi-part, Emmy-award-winning special report "Troubled Waters"

Under the agreement, the Interior Department’s Bureau of Reclamation will provide $22 million in new funding through the Inflation Reduction Act in fiscal year 2023 to implement projects at the lake, support staffing at the Torres Martinez Desert Cahuilla Indian Tribe, and conduct scientific research and management that contributes to project implementation.  

Subject to the implementation of voluntary conservation actions proposed by IID and CVWD, Reclamation will also provide an additional $228 million over the next four years to expedite existing projects and bolster staffing capacity at the water agencies to help deliver new projects.

“We are hopeful that this $250 million from the federal government marks a start to their increased engagement and cooperation with the state and locals on this urgent public health and ecological crisis at the Salton Sea. Our California leadership has delivered $583 million to support the Salton Sea and community-driven project priorities and we have long sought federal partnership and their share of investment to help achieve our benchmarks. In addition to the Prop 68 funding and reinforcing state budget allocations we have secured, California has shovels in the ground, nearing completion on the Species Conservation Habitat Project that will improve air quality in the region. The Department of Interior’s announcement is a great first step and we must keep federal attention focused on this issue. We must all pull our weight to accelerate Salton Sea solutions and protections for residents.”

- Assemblymember Eduardo Garcia

This is in support of California’s commitment to voluntarily conserve 400,000 acre-feet annually, starting in 2023. This $250 million investment from the Inflation Reduction Act will complement the $583 million in state funding committed to date.

“This agreement is a huge step forward,” said California Natural Resources Secretary Wade Crowfoot. “It builds our momentum delivering projects at the Sea to protect communities and the environment and ensures that California’s leadership conserving Colorado River water supplies doesn’t come at the expense of local residents.”

The agreement will also see the California Natural Resources Agency commit to accelerating project delivery through permit streamlining and use of its full contracting authority. It also commits to continue pursuing additional funding for projects to build on state funding already committed to Salton Sea Management Program implementation.

The Interior Department, IID and CVWD have agreed to establish programmatic land access agreements to enable state agencies to implement projects. In addition, the two water agencies will provide available future water supplies for new projects. This will enable California water agencies to commit to voluntarily reduce their water usage each year beginning in 2023 through 2026 to protect critical elevations in Lake Mead.   

The Colorado River provides water to two countries, seven western states, 30 Tribal Nations and 40 million residents. It is currently experiencing the longest and worst drought on record, driven by hotter temperatures under climate change. Efforts continue in California and across the Colorado River Basin to find ways to stabilize water storage volumes in Lakes Powell and Mead. Reclamation and water agencies are working closely to take extraordinary actions to protect the Colorado River System.  

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Article Topic Follows: Salton Sea

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Jesus Reyes

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Jennifer Franco

Jennifer Franco is the weekend anchor/weekday reporter for KESQ News Channel 3


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