Gov. Brown signs bill giving local authority greater say over Salton Sea Restoration


San Bernardino Museum Salton Sea

SACRAMENTO — Gov. Jerry Brown’s office announced Saturday that the governor signed AB 71, the Salton Sea restoration plan authored by Imperial Valley representative Assemblyman V. Manuel Pérez (D).

The law will give local stakeholders greater say in the revitalization of the Salton Sea and aims to have the local Salton Sea Authority work directly on a plan with the state’s Natural Resources Agency.

It also authorizes those agencies to study “short- and long-term funding opportunities to help determine a financially sustainable restoration project,” according to Pérez’s office.

Now with Brown’s signature, the new governance structure will replace the Salton Sea Restoration Council, a state-local partnership that the Legislature endorsed in 2010. The 16-member group never met and never got any funding, so Brown disbanded it in 2012.

Last year, Pérez suggested a governance structure similar to the one in AB 71. But it didn’t get his colleagues’ support before the deadline to pass bills, so he reintroduced it. This version was supported by several regional and state groups, including the Imperial County Board of Supervisors.

It also garnered bipartisan support in the Assembly and Senate, including Assemblyman Brian Nestande, a Palm Desert Republican.

For years, elected officials and community leaders urged the state to give them more power to address the problems plaguing the Salton Sea. Rising salinity levels have been causing concerns for decades. And in 2017, a massive water transfer will shrink the sea, exposing potentially hazardous lake bed and endangering the future of the fish and wildlife there.