Salton Sea Gets First Congressional Hearing in Two Decades

The first congressional hearing was held  on the Salton Sea since 1997, it was done virtually because of the pandemic.

Congressman Raul Ruiz, M.D., (D) 36th Dist, has been pressing for this meeting to bring federal support to the ailing, accidental sea  for years. 

“Twenty three years ago Congress sought the need to address the federal role at the sea and yet today we find ourselves on the verge of a crisis and I‘m committed to making change,” testified Ruiz.

But not everyone is on board with that change.

Ca representative Tom McClintock  says California has nothing to show for the millions it’s sunk into the sea and it’s their responsibility, ” … that was 18 years ago and $700 million ago and nothing’s happened.” 

But he got push back from all sides because the federal government owns nearly half or the largest portion of the land.  

“The liability has shifted from the state to the fed and back and in that entire course it’s been the local communities who have suffered from inaction,” replied E. Joaquin Esquivel, from the California Water Resources Board.

Torres Martinez Desert Cahuilla Indians Tribal Chairman Thomas Tortez, who is also a director of the Salton Sea Authority testified before the committee, “This is our aboriginal homeland and must be protected for current and future generations.” 

He tells us this hearing and bill that will be introduced by Ruiz can turn around the consequences of inaction, “This tragic catastrophe that’s happening now is just another addition to many federal broken promises.” 

“That’s why my bill will help improve coordination, will help the federal government and the administration prioritize the Salton Sea, streamline the projects and also match the funds that state are doing so it’s an all hands on deck and everybody’s working together on this,” says Ruiz, adding that he will do whatever it takes to get it passed during this administration or next.  

During the hearing, Ruiz laid out the sobering present, “The children who already face the highest asthma hospitalization rate in California,” and also spoke with us about the grim future of the shrinking sea fed by agricultural water where more and more shoreline will be exposed  if nothing is done, “imagine this dust not only affecting us locally but being able to carry all the way to these other states carrying pesticides, arsenic, other chemicals that are damaging to their health so that’s why doing nothing is not an option.” 

Ruiz says on top of the health catastrophe the economic cost of inaction will be at least $9 billion.

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