The Imperial County Board of Supervisors applauds Congressman Juan Vargas, as well as Senators Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer, for their efforts to ensure that the president’s fiscal year 2017 budget request included funding for the Calexico West port expansion project and Salton Sea restoration efforts.
The president’s budget request includes over $248 million to complete the second and final phase of the Calexico West Land Port of Entry (LPOE) modernization and expansion project. While Congress will have the ultimate say in whether to fund the project, its inclusion in the General Services Administration’s (GSA) budget officially makes it eligible to receive appropriations in fiscal year 2017.
“After so many years of great effort, it is gratifying to see the end is in sight”, stated District 1 Imperial County Supervisor John Renison.
In fiscal year 2015, Congress provided $98 million to begin construction on Phase I of the project, which will add new northbound and southbound inspection lanes, as well as a command center for U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP). Phase II will include additional site work, demolition of the existing port building, construction of a new pedestrian processing facility and administrative offices, among other things.
“The benefits of this long awaited project will be a huge boost for our local businesses and those who must cross the border on a regular basis”, said District 5 County Supervisor Raymond Castillo.
The Calexico West expansion project is a top funding priority for the Board of Supervisors, as an expanded port has the potential to boost economic activity and vastly improve the poor air quality that is exacerbated by thousands of idling vehicles at the border. Once complete, the project will provide the port with adequate operational space, reduce traffic congestion at the border, and provide a safe environment for port employees and visitors.
Salton Sea Restoration
Once a popular place for recreational activities, the Salton Sea has been plagued by several persistent problems that threaten the health of the current ecosystem, including an alarmingly high salinity level. Additionally, algal blooms and the subsequent by-products of decomposition have led to recent fish and bird kills. Despite the high salinity and resulting die-offs, the Salton Sea continues to be a vital link along the Pacific flyway for migrating birds. Furthermore, a 2003 water transfer agreement – embodied in the Quantification Settlement Agreement (QSA) – will significantly reduce inflows to the Salton Sea in 2018. With reduced water flows and a high evaporation rate, the Sea will shrink at a rapid pace, causing the increasingly exposed lake bed to blow contaminated dust into the air in the Salton Sea Air Basin.
The president’s budget proposes $3 million for restoration efforts via the Salton Sea Research Project, a sizeable increase over the current funding level of $300,000. “The journey to a permanent resolution of the issues at the Salton Sea involves many partners and many steps. I am thankful for this step and those who have worked so diligently to make it happen”, stated District 4 County Supervisor Ryan Kelley. If Congress approves the funding, the money will be used to build 31 acres of wetland habitat along the Alamo River. Such a project would help improve water quality, provide habitat, and support efforts by the State to reach a comprehensive, resource management plan for the Salton Sea.
The Board of Supervisors will continue to work closely with the County’s congressional delegation and other key members of Congress to secure the necessary funds for both the Calexico West port project and Salton Sea restoration through the fiscal year 2017 appropriations process.