Federal, State and Local Leaders Boost Funding, Cooperation to
Address Impacts to the Sea from Urgent Water Conservation in the Imperial and Coachella Valleys
Leaders from the California Natural Resources Agency, Imperial Irrigation District (IID) and Coachella Valley Water District (CVWD) hailed today’s announcement by the Department of the Interior that a landmark agreement has been established to accelerate dust suppression and aquatic habitat projects at the Salton Sea to help facilitate urgent water conservation in the Imperial and Coachella valleys.
The agreement, which is set for consideration by the IID board of directors at its November 29 meeting, establishes actions to expedite implementation of projects as part of the state’s Salton Sea Management Program 10-year Plan. The Salton Sea, California’s largest lake, is receding due in part to existing water conservation actions in the Imperial Valley that have reduced inflows to the Sea. Areas of exposed lakebed contribute to harmful dust emissions and reduce important environmental habitat.
Under the agreement, the Bureau of Reclamation, which is part of the federal Department of the Interior, is directing $250 million to support Salton Sea efforts. This funding enables California’s commitment to voluntarily conserve 400,000 acre-feet annually for the next four years, starting in 2023. The $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 in conserving Colorado River water supplies doesn’t come at the expense of local residents.”
The California Natural Resources Agency commits 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 Department of Interior, IID and CVWD agree 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.
The agreement enables California water agencies to move forward with proposals announced last month to voluntarily reduce their water usage each year beginning in 2023 through 2026 to protect critical elevations in Lake Mead.
“This agreement was developed as part of an ongoing effort by the Imperial Irrigation District to bring external resources and broader partnerships to the Salton Sea’s many public health and environmental challenges,” said IID General Manager Henry Martinez. “The district has steadfastly advocated the connection of the Salton Sea to the Colorado River for decades, and we appreciate Commissioner Touton and Secretary Crowfoot’s direct involvement in this process as we work together to move California’s voluntary conservation proposal forward.”
“CVWD recognizes the need for additional conservation efforts to protect the viability of the Colorado River for all users,” said CVWD General Manager Jim Barrett. “Understanding the importance of minimizing associated impacts to the Salton Sea through the additional conservation efforts, we fully support the efforts outlined in this agreement.”
“The Salton Sea is a globally important stop along the Pacific Flyway for millions of migrating birds, providing habitat for around 400 species,” said Frank Ruiz, Salton Sea program director for Audubon California, a member of the Salton Sea Partnership. “The federal government’s investment is a major step forward towards projects to safeguard residents and the environment. We look forward to federal partners continuing to work with the state, water agencies, and local communities for long term durable solutions at the Salton Sea.”
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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