4/11/16 – Community offers input on Salton Sea; bigger outreach needed

Imperial Valley Press, 4-11-16

Community members and stakeholders had an opportunity to learn more about the latest developments regarding the Salton Sea and shared input and concerns they have as the Salton Sea Management Program moves forward.

The workshop was organized by Imperial County and Imperial Irrigation District on Monday at the Palmer Auditorium in Brawley.

Salton Sea Authority Executive Director Phil Rosentrater gave the attendees background on the Salton Sea Authority and some of the activities it has been involved in.

Valerie Simon, Salton Sea program manager for the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation spoke about the role of the federal government and more specifically about the $3 million in funding that the Department of the Interior allocated for the Salton Sea Research Project or Holtville-Alamo River Wetlands Project.

The main presentation of the workshop was given by Bruce Wilcox, assistant secretary for Salton Sea Policy for the California Natural Resources Agency who talked about the recently released list of short term projects the state of California will focus on as mandated by Assembly Bill 1095.

Also Wilcox talked about the main goals of the Salton Sea Management Program which includes developing and a finance plan for restoration efforts and outreach to the public.

“The idea is to get the public involved and get their input at some of these meetings that we are going to have over the next few weeks,” Wilcox said.

The second half of the workshop was devoted to allow members of the public to offer input, ask questions and share concerns.

“This was a good opportunity to hear from the communities and get input that will help us with our presentation to the water board next week,” said Ryan Kelley, Imperial County District 4 Supervisor.

A few members of the audience said that the outreach efforts have to be greater and felt that the most vulnerable people to the environmental issues with the Salton Sea have not been part of the conversation, but felt the progress that has been made is an important step.

“The most important thing I heard today is that the Natural Resources Agency is moving forward with the short term projects,” said Humberto Lugo from Comite Civico del Valle. “It’s good for the Salton Sea, the environment and the community that we are moving forward.”

Another issue that was brought up was whether the habitat projects that will start to get underway will do enough to suppress the dust from the exposed shoreline.

“I want to see more air quality mitigation efforts, I want to know what are the benchmarks and evaluations that are going to be in place in order to ensure that we use our tax dollars effectively,” said John Hernandez from Brawley.

Hernandez also said that he wanted to know what will get done for the long term as well.

Wilcox said that the evaluations for the long range projects that were presented to the state in February will be evaluated and should have the results of those evaluations by early May.

The State Water Resources Control Board will hold a quarterly Salton Sea Workshop on April 19 in Sacramento where the latest developments will be further discussed.