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Sen. Boxer - Act Faster, Salton Sea


Last updated 9/10/2016 at 10:03am

Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., visited the Salton Sea Thurs. Aug. 18, and called for local, state and federal agencies to hurry up with restoration plans. Boxer made her comments after a briefing from local, state and federal officials in a closed meeting, about efforts to curb environmental damage from the steadily shrinking sea.

"If we don't act faster than we are acting now, we will face a public health disaster and an environmental disaster," Boxer said at the Sonny Bono Salton Sea National Wildlife Refuge. "There must be no backpedaling, because the dust won't wait for us to act, the birds won't wait for us to act and our children's lungs won't wait for us to act," she said.

"This will be a serious problem for the Southwestern United States and Mexico if it's not dealt with," said Timothy Krantz, a University of Redlands ecology professor and manager of the Salton Sea Database Program, which is assisting those restoring the sea. The impacts of the dying sea and the subsequent dust from the exposed lake bed, is very fine and contains pesticides and other toxins, are already being felt as far away as Los Angeles.

Boxer noted that this year, California lawmakers budgeted $80.5 million, more than ever before, for Salton Sea projects but that leadership to get things done - not money - are what's needed most to advance restoration.

"This investment will help build canals and artificial wetlands around the sea," she said.

"It is good to hear the senator speak out, essentially saying we all need to do more and get things moving if we are going to avert a human health and ecological disaster," said Krantz, "But the scale of the problem and the magnitude of the projects (under construction or proposed) is too small to address the fundamental problem," .

While at the sea, Boxer toured the Red Hill Marina restoration project, 500 acres of exposed lake bed that will be covered with a purer water than is in the Salton Sea, action which would both eliminate dust and provide habitat for birds. Boxer stated that she was surprised the project wasn't further along.

Krantz said the scale of the Red Hill project is minuscule compared to the 90,000 acres, or 140 square miles, of lake bed that could become exposed after water flow from the Colorado River to the Salton Sea is cut off after 2017.

Boxer was critical of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for not adjusting priorities and doing more to work with the other partners in the Salton Sea rehabilitation effort. Army Maj. Scotty Autin, deputy director of the Corps' Los Angeles District, said his team is ready to jump in when a plan of action is developed.

A draft for short-, medium- and long-range Salton Sea proposals will be available in late December, said Bruce Wilcox, assistant secretary for Salton Sea policy for the California Department of Natural Resources.

Wilcox is leading the effort for that plan which he admits, "Money is an issue" in solving the Salton Sea's problems.

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