As state makes new commitments on Salton Sea timeline, it will still be judged by its work on the ground

With water deliveries set to stop on Dec. 31, the state must move to control toxic dust and protect and restore fish and wildlife habitat.

Salton Sea, Calif – While applauding today’s agreement by the State of California to adhere to a specific timeline for Salton Sea restoration projects in the coming years, a coalition of environmental groups reminded policymakers that the clock is still ticking toward an ominous Dec. 31 deadline when required water deliveries will cease to be delivered to the Sea. Representatives of Audubon California, Sierra Club, Defenders of Wildlife, and the Pacific Institute emphasized that the state needs to begin work on the ground immediately to avert a public health disaster and destruction of vital habitat for migratory birds.

The State Water Resources Control Board approved the agreement, called a stipulated order, at its meeting today. The order includes commitment from the state to complete 29,800 acres of air quality and habitat projects over the next decade, with annual benchmarks that start with at least 500 acres constructed by December 31, 2018.

“Agreeing to this new timeline is a strong indication that the state is more serious about resolving the crisis at the Salton Sea,” said Frank Ruiz, Salton Sea program director for Audubon California. “But we’re past the point of celebrating new promises. It’s time for the State to get to work.”

"It is certainly our hope that agreeing to this timeline will help the State meet its obligation to avoid an environmental and human health disaster at the Salton Sea,” said Sarah Friedman, senior campaign representative with the Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal Campaign. “Time is running out for the local communities suffering from some of the worst air in the nation, and for the fragile wildlife populations. The State must commit and fund projects on the ground to protect the Sea, our ecosystem and surrounding communities."

Today, the Salton Sea region also serves as critical habitat for more than 400 bird species in a state that has seen more than 90% of its wetlands destroyed by development, agriculture, and drought. The Sea’s diminishing habitat and increased salinity levels will make it increasingly uninhabitable for a variety of wildlife.

“Certainly, a sense of urgency is good, but we won’t be able to wave a piece of paper at the dust clouds, or the dead or absent wildlife,” said Kim Delfino, Defenders of Wildlife’s California program director. “Fourteen years ago when the State promised to address the problems at the Sea, 2018 seemed like plenty of time to protect and restore the Sea. Now we’re two months away from the deadline and impending disaster, and it’s time to get some shovels in the ground and a lot more money dedicated to the Sea.”

"We’re encouraged to see the State commit to a real timeline, but it’s long past time for plans. The Salton Sea needs projects on the ground, now, and a real commitment to make that happen," said Michael Cohen, Senior Research Associate at the Pacific Institute.

About Audubon California

Audubon California is building a better future for California by bringing people together to appreciate, enjoy and protect our spectacular outdoor treasures. With more than 150,000 members and supporters in California and an affiliated 48 local Audubon chapters, Audubon California is a field program of the National Audubon Society. More information is available at www.ca.audubon.org.

About the Sierra Club

The Sierra Club is America’s largest and most influential grassroots environmental organization, with more than 2.4 million members and supporters. In addition to helping people from all backgrounds explore nature and our outdoor heritage, the Sierra Club works to promote clean energy, safeguard the health of our communities, protect wildlife, and preserve our remaining wild places through grassroots activism, public education, lobbying, and legal action. For more information, visit www.sierraclub.org.

About Defenders of Wildlife

Defenders of Wildlife is dedicated to the protection of all native animals and plants in their natural communities. With nearly 1.2 million members and activists, Defenders of Wildlife is a leading advocate for innovative solutions to safeguard our wildlife heritage for generations to come. For more information, visit Newsroom.Defenders.org and follow us on Twitter @DefendersNews.

About the Pacific Institute

The Pacific Institute is a global water think tank that combines science-based thought leadership with active outreach to influence local, national, and international efforts in developing sustainable water policies. Since 1987, we have worked with everyone from Fortune 500 companies to disenfranchised communities to create and advance sustainable water policies and deliver meaningful results.

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