Environmental Groups: Federal Bill Would Bring "Much Needed Relief" to Salton Sea

Salton Sea Public Health and Environmental Protection Act would streamline federal response at California’s largest lake


November 19, 2020

Washington, D.C.—Members of a coalition of environmental and community organizations working to avert the ongoing ecological collapse at the Salton Sea today praised a bill introduced by Rep. Raúl Ruiz, M.D. (D-Palm Desert) promising federal help for public health and restoration efforts there.

The Salton Sea Public Health and Environmental Protection Act of 2020 would codify a 2016 Memorandum of Understanding between the state of California and the federal government to collaborate on habitat and dust suppression projects at the Salton Sea to avoid and minimize harm to people and wildlife due to the shrinking sea. The bill would require the U.S. Dept. of the Interior to match efforts by the State of California to implement restoration and dust control projects, enhance interagency coordination, expedite permits, and require reports to Congress and the public about public health hazards and progress of mitigation projects.

“Audubon deeply appreciates Rep. Ruiz’ leadership on the Salton Sea,” said Frank Ruiz, Audubon California’s Salton Sea program director. “As one of the largest landowners near the Salton Sea, the federal government bears an equally large responsibility for its decline, which is harming hundreds of thousands of people and hundreds of species of birds. This legislation will ensure that the federal government will meet its responsibilities at the Salton Sea, especially over the next few years. The months ahead are crucial to controlling dust emissions and providing habitat as the sea continues to shrink.”

"We welcome Rep. Ruiz's leadership and legislation on the Salton Sea.  By catalyzing more robust engagement from the federal government, this will go a long way to bringing much-needed relief to the long-overlooked communities and ecosystems around the Sea," said Pablo Garza, California Political Director, Ecosystems, for Environmental Defense Fund.

"We greatly appreciate Rep. Ruiz's continued leadership and welcome this much-needed legislation acknowledging federal responsibilities and obligations to the Salton Sea and public and environmental health,” said Michael Cohen, senior associate at the Pacific Institute.

With an estimated surface area of 350 square miles, the Salton Sea is by far California’s largest lake, as well as a vital stop for migrating birds along the Pacific Flyway. Threatened by contaminated runoff and reduced inflow from changing water-usage patterns, the Sea is degrading rapidly, exposing airborne dust from the dry lakebed that endangers the health of the 650,000 residents who live in the immediate area. Plans and initial funding are in place to restore portions of the Sea and mitigate the health effects of airborne contaminants, but progress has been slow.


Jason Howe, jason.howe@audubon.org; 415-595-9245

About Audubon
The National Audubon Society protects birds and the places they need, today and tomorrow. Audubon works throughout the Americas using science, advocacy, education, and on-the-ground conservation. State programs, nature centers, chapters, and partners give Audubon an unparalleled wingspan that reaches millions of people each year to inform, inspire, and unite diverse communities in conservation action. A nonprofit conservation organization since 1905, Audubon believes in a world in which people and wildlife thrive. Learn more at www.audubon.org and on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram @audubonsociety.

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