A bill to establish a new state conservancy at the beleaguered Salton Sea was introduced in the California Senate on Wednesday by State Sen. Steve Padilla (D-San Diego).
Senate Bill 583 would manage projects to restore habitat, create recreational opportunities and minimize windblown dust in the lake, which is the largest in California.
The Salton Sea Conservancy would be created within the Natural Resources Agency, which would then manage all of the conservation projects taking place in the Salton Sea Region.
"Conservancies have the ability to foster trust with region they serve. Creating the Salton Sea Conservancy would provide the surrounding community a direct link to a central entity, giving them further insight into restoration efforts," reads the announcement from Padilla's office.
“A Salton Sea Conservancy creates a necessary avenue to finance operation and maintenance of restoration projects and ensure a healthier, more sustainable future for our sea and surrounding communities,” said Assemblymember Eduardo Garcia, joint author on the legislation.
The Salton Sea was once a top tourist destination, attracting some of old Hollywood's biggest names, but over the past few decades, it's become an ecological disaster. Evaporation and agricultural runoff have exposed toxins in the lakebed and created a perfect environment for dangerous algae blooms and bacteria to thrive.
As the lake recedes, dust from the exposed toxic soil below, rich with farm pesticides, increases. Figures from a USC Environmental Health Centers and Aire Study estimate the amount of dust in the air will increase exponentially as the lake dries up, more than doubling from 2020 to 2025.
The lake has caused health issues for many residents who live near the lake. The rate of asthma hospitalizations for kids living at the southern end of the lake is more than double the state's number, according to the California Environmental Health Tracking Program.
“This is an environmental crisis that not only impacts the ecology of the region, but the people as well. Communities near the Salton Sea are at breaking point,” said Senator Padilla. “By unifying all of the conservation projects surrounding the Sea, we can streamline .efforts and bring about necessary change faster.”
Officials with the Salton Sea Partnership, comprised of Alianza Coachella Valley, Audubon California, Leadership Counsel for Justice and Accountability, Pacific Institute and Sierra Club California, said they applaud Padilla for introducing the bill and looks forward to working with him on this important legislation during this session.
“The creation of a conservancy at the Salton Sea to oversee the acquisition and management of land, create infrastructure and act as a responsible steward of wildlife habitat areas is long overdue,” said Frank Ruiz, director of the Salton Sea Program for Audubon California, a member of the Salton Sea Partnership. “As many different entities come together to slow the Sea’s decline, coordination and communication are essential, and we thank Sen. Padilla for working to further that.”
News Channel 3 Morning Anchor Angela Chen has been covering the issues surrounding the Salton Sea for years, including the environmental and health aspects of the looming ecological disaster.
- Part 1: Paradise Lost - Angela looks back at the history of the Salton Sea. Find out its connection to Spanish explorers, and how it went from one of the most popular destinations to abandoned and on the verge of disaster
- Check Out Part 2- Toxic Exposure: Angela goes in-depth on the history of toxic outbreaks at the Salton Sea and its connection to the current health issues of those who live near the lake
- Part 3: A Lake Languished - Angela look at the millions spent over the years to save the Salton Sea and why there is so little progress to show for it
Part 4: Salton Sea Plea - There are massive environmental problems at the Salton Sea, but after decades of neglect, could the lake's unique location be part of the solution in saving it? Angela highlights the movement happening to save the lake