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Environment

Plan To Restore Habitat, Suppress Dust At Salton Sea Is Behind Schedule

Boat ramps at the Salton Sea’s Red Hill Bay Marina were once functional, but have been rendered obsolete by the lake’s ever-widening shoreline, Feb. 20, 2018.
Luke Runyon / KUNC
Boat ramps at the Salton Sea’s Red Hill Bay Marina were once functional, but have been rendered obsolete by the lake’s ever-widening shoreline, Feb. 20, 2018.
Plan To Restore Habitat, Suppress Dust At Salton Sea Is Behind Schedule
Plan To Restore Habitat, Suppress Dust At Salton Sea Is Behind Schedule GUEST:Assemblyman Eduardo Garcia, D-Coachella

Our top story on Midday Edition plans to restore the dust in the Salton Sea are on schedule. The dust created from the dry lake bed is expected to make the areas high asthma rate higher. Last year the state created a decade-long plan to restore the Salton Sea and attempt and us. Less than a year it is unlikely to meet its first targeted. Joining me on Skype is it Wargo Garcia who presents Imperial County and Riverside County was the chairman of the committee of Weil Parks and wildlife. >> Thank you for covering this important issue. >>> According to the 10 year plan, 520,000 expose acres of lakebed should be restored by December. How many acres do you expect will be completed ? >> I believe by December, we will begin the construction for those 500 acres to be addressed. We have learned that due to some legal right-of-way easement permits that are still under discussion last negotiation has caused a delay for the implementation of this project. >>> You say construction is only expected to begin in December. How many acres have been completed so far? Do you expect more will be completed by the end of the year? >> We have a project that was funded by the state of California in partnership with the Torres Martinez tribe, this project has completed its first phase. The problem with accounting for that project is that it is not in the 10 year plan. However, the positive side is that there are acres out there on the north side of the Salton Sea being addressed, covered up as it relates to building the habitat air-quality mitigation. We anticipate that by the end of this year, the majority of this first project, which is the conservation habitat project, that was discussed at this hearing, will be under construction. >>> There may not be very many acres restored by the end of this year. This was supposed to be a binding plan. What happens is you are suggesting we will bloke past the goals. >> The fact is we will not meet that expectation. We had that conversation this week. We are holding the agency and those directly involved with this project to a higher standard. I asked that the level of urgency that we have seen in response to other statewide crisis is that are being handled by the same agencies, that they give this project, the Salton Sea circumstances out there the same level of attention and expeditious work and implementation of the plan. We are certainly as frustrated as the residence in the Imperial County Art with the lack of action. We have a plan and we have the money we need to get in and to being. >>> You mentioned legal issues as one of the causes of delay wrangling between government lawyers. What is the other reason why this goal of 500 acres will not be met by the end of this year ? >> That is one of the primary reasons. I do not want to give any excuses whatsoever for the agency and the needs for this project. The bottom line is that this month we shall be receiving a plan that corrects those delays and ultimately, catches us up to begin getting back on track with the timeline that was set. There are other benchmarks that had been set by the state water control resources board that has put additional levels of expectation on those leaving the project at the Salton Sea. >>> Are you confident that although we will miss this first goal, that we are still on track for the 10 year plan overall? Or does this put the whole thing on Jeopardy ? >> Does not but the whole thing in jeopardy. I certainly don't want you or others to take that away from this conversation. The fact of the matter is we are going to catch up. We are not 10 years behind with his tenure plan. We are talking about months. We have a schedule that is being developed to get back on track. At the end of the day, it is a bond measure that is on the ballot in June. And a possible measure that is on the ballot for November that will provide us the entire funding necessary to implement this tenure plan. My goal is to see multiple projects under construction over the next 16 months, multiple projects on the north, south, east, west part of the Sea. To be able to mitigate the air-quality public health problems that will be exacerbated by inaction or for that matter falling behind with the schedule of projects beings constructed. >>> There was a deal where mitigation water was supposed to be sent to the Salton Sea to slow the leaking water. Do you think there will be repercussions given that we are slowing in a restoration in the short term and we don't have the mitigation whether Dashiell water either? It's been absolutely. That is the question answers itself. Less water, precipitation, climate change, droughts, of course it his. That is why we need to ensure that we stay on track with that schedule. This is why we expressed tremendous amount of frustration and concern at our hearing this past Tuesday. There is no excuse. That was made very loud and clear. We have commitments to get a plan to get us back on schedule. We also got a commitment that these easement right-of-way legal conversations would be coming to a closure very soon and beginning construction of these projects in the fall of this year. >>> I've been speaking with assemblyman Eduardo Garcia. Thank you Mr. Garcia. >> Thank you very much for your attention on this important matter.

Plans to control dangerous dust from the Salton Sea are behind schedule. There are about 20,000 acres of exposed lakebed on California’s largest lake. The dust created from the dry lakebed is expected to make the area’s already high asthma rate even higher.

The amount of exposed lakebed is rapidly increasing because mitigation water is no longer being put into the sea. Under a deal to transfer water to San Diego County and the Coachella Valley, mitigation water was sent to the Salton Sea to help slow the shrinking of the sea. That ended in December 2017.

Last year, the state approved a 10-year plan to restore habitat at the Salton Sea and tamp down dust. But less than a year in it's unlikely the plan's first target, 500 acres of projects completed by the end of 2018, will be met. The plan is expected to cost about $410 million. So far $80 million in funding has been allocated.

Another $200 million will go towards the plan if voters pass Proposition 68 on the June ballot.

RELATED: Ballot Measure Aims To Preserve Salton Sea, Help Air Quality

Assemblyman Eduardo Garcia represents Imperial County and eastern Riverside County. He’s also chairman of the Assembly’s Committee on Water, Parks, and Wildlife.

Garcia held a state oversight hearing on the 10-year Salton Sea Management Plan earlier this week.

He joins Midday Edition Thursday to discuss the status of the projects outlined in the plan.