Senator Padilla Bill to Create Salton Sea Conservancy Advances Out of Committee
SACRAMENTO – Earlier this week, the Senate Natural Resources and Water Committee passed Senate Bill 583, authored by Senator Steve Padilla (D-San Diego). The bill creates the Salton Sea Conservancy to unify the state’s efforts to expedite preservation project delivery, protect residents’ health, and foster ecological recovery in the area.
“The Salton Sea is one of the most pressing environmental justice issues facing California,” said Senator Padilla. “The toxic dust blown off of the dry lakebed continues to choke communities surrounding the Salton Sea region, negatively impacting the health of generations of some of the most vulnerable Californians and their exposure will only worsen as climate changes expedites the sea’s evaporation. Creating this conservancy streamlines conservation efforts and ensures a heathier future for communities around the Sea.”
The Salton Sea formed in 1905 after overflow from the Colorado River spilled into a basin in the desert, creating the largest lake in California. Over the past several decades, evaporation exacerbated by several extreme climate change-fueled droughts, has reduced the sea in size significantly, exposing toxic lakebed. The contaminated dust from the lakebed has had an overwhelming impact on the health of the surrounding communities, predominantly composed of Latino agricultural workers.
Hospitalization rates for children with asthma in the area are double the state average and residents have been especially affected by the rotten-egg odor from hydrogen sulfide overrunning the sea’s oxygen-deprived water. Imperial County, where the Sea is located, now suffers from some of the worst air quality in the country.
There have been numerous efforts by public health advocates, local leaders, and environmental justice groups to mitigate the negative health effects affecting communities. Similarly, environmental groups have sought aid from state and federal sources to preserve the environment correct the toxic health inequities present. Previous attempts to restore the Salton Sea have stalled despite numerous legislative efforts.
SB 583 would create the Salton Sea Conservancy, tasking it with coordinating management of all conservation projects in the region to restore the shrinking sea and reducing the negative health impact the Sea imposes.
“As we take action to protect our Salton Sea communities, we must also look ahead to ensure our future health and sustainability,” said Assemblymember Eduardo Garcia, joint author on the legislation. “Establishing a Salton Sea Conservancy will allow us to safeguard our Salton Sea investments by financing the operation and maintenance of restoration projects.”
“We strongly support the concept of a Salton Sea Conservancy,” said Michael Cohen, Senior Associate at the Pacific Institute, and member of the Salton Sea Partnership. “A conservancy would consolidate state operations under one roof - at the Salton Sea itself - to help expedite the construction of new habitat and dust suppression projects and would be more responsive to the needs of the local communities.”
SB 583 received bipartisan support and passed out of the committee on a 10-0 vote. The bill now heads to the Senate Appropriations Committee. Read more about SB 583 here.
Steve Padilla represents the 18th Senate District, which includes the communities of Chula Vista, the Coachella Valley, Imperial Beach, the Imperial Valley, National City, and San Diego. Prior to his election to the Senate in 2022, Senator Padilla was the first person of color ever elected to city office in Chula Vista, the first Latino Mayor, and the first openly LGBT person to serve or be elected to city office. Website of Senator Steve Padilla: https://sd18.senate.ca.gov/