U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, in an Oct. 11 letter to the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works chaired by her fellow California Democrat, U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer, requested $1.3 billion for California water projects from Sacramento down to Calexico.
Conspicuously missing from the list, however, is any request for money toward Salton Sea restoration.
The sea, California’s largest lake, is slowly dying as its salinity increases. Its shrinking shores are expected to be increasingly exposed by 2018, when a water transfer deal to San Diego County enters full implementation and the sea’s water supply via agricultural runoff is reduced considerably. Scientists tell us that already challenged fish and bird habitats will be negatively impacted, and exposed lake beds could cause an air quality crisis across the region when carried by the winds.
Feinstein’s letter notes her latest requests are in addition to those she made in a May 2010 letter to the committee. That much longer list of water projects also doesn’t include a request for Salton Sea funds.
Sacramento has clearly pushed the looming crisis at the Salton Sea behind their budgetary struggles, and environmentally behind the need for fixes in the river deltas of Sacramento.
But a California Senator putting the sea behind more than 50 other water-related projects statewide? Really?
We sent an email to Feinstein’s spokespeople to ask about it and haven’t heard back so far.
The sea’s other federal lawmakers haven’t been particularly successful in garnering federal funds toward a fix. Boxer’s website touts that she secured $4.5 million for the sea in 2002, and $30 million for sea restoration projects in the 2007 Water Resources Development Act. But the latter money hasn’t been used, awaiting $10 million in either state or local matching funds.
“As soon as we get a plan and the matching funds, I will do everything I can to move this critical restoration project forward,” Boxer told The Desert Sun in late September.
In the House, Palm Springs Republican Rep. Mary Bono Mack wrote a letter to U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar and EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson, calling on them to “bring together your agencies and work with our local and state leaders” on Salton Sea solutions. She’s also called for a new Congressional hearing about the sea, due to dissatisfaction with the state’s lack of progress.
The state’s preferred alternative for sea mitigation and restoration in 2007 was estimated to cost nearly $9 billion.
View Feinstein’s requests for water project funding from October and May 2010 via the links below: