Letter to Governor Brown and the Legislature on the Salton Sea

Report232_SaltonSeaRevisit

Report #232, June 2016

OVERVIEW

The Little Hoover Commission in a letter sent Friday to Governor Brown and the Legislature again renewed its call for urgent action at the Salton Sea to prevent a massive public health, environmental and economic disaster in Southern California.

Policymakers must replicate the effective approach taken to meet the state’s renewable energy goals, wrote the Commission in its letter. Then, the Governor gave a senior official the authority to do what it took to get projects through red tape at all levels of government. The model was remarkably simple: Get everyone together and get it done.

The letter results from continuing oversight to which the Commission pledged in its 2015 report, Averting Disaster: Action Now for the Salton Sea. The Commission held an April 2016 hearing to get an update on the state’s progress in strategically managing the Salton Sea. It heard from the assistant secretary for Salton Sea policy at the Natural Resources Agency, as well as stakeholders from local government and the environmental community.

The Commission’s letter acknowledges that momentum is building and that the state has made important progress in managing the sea, particularly with $80 million in funding in the Governor’s proposed 2016-17 budget. However, the Commission’s letter maintains that the state is not moving fast enough or allocating sufficient resources to prevent a disaster. Timelines have been delayed, short-term goals scarcely cover a fraction of exposed lakebed and much more than $80 million is needed to manage the sea.

In its June 24, 2016, letter, the Commission recommends:

  • Making the Salton Sea a priority for the administration and policymakers equal to high speed rail, the twin tunnels, reduced carbon emissions and increased renewable energy. Streamline and expedite contracting and enact legislation to ensure any lawsuits related to the proposed projects are resolved quickly.
  • Ensuring adequate resources to fast track short-term projects and expedite long-term planning.
  • Developing and publishing a detailed timeline for project implementation.
  • Assessing project and operations and maintenance costs and developing a long-term funding strategy.

The Little Hoover Commission will continue its oversight function by requesting a briefing in 2017 on long-term planning for the Salton Sea.

The Little Hoover Commission is a bipartisan and independent state agency charged with recommending ways to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of state programs. The Commission’s recommendations are submitted to the Governor and the Legislature for their consideration and action. For a copy of the report, visit the Commission’s website: www.lhc.ca.gov.

In this report, the Commission renews its September 2015 call for urgent action at the Salton Sea to prevent a massive public health, environmental and economic disaster in Southern California. This report updates and builds on recommendations the Commission made in a 2015 report, Averting Disaster: Action Now for the Salton Sea.

During its review, the Commission found the state is still not moving fast enough or allocating sufficient resources to prevent an economic, public health and environmental disaster.

The Commission recommends making the Salton Sea a top priority.

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