Riverside County supervisors Tuesday unanimously endorsed legislation to accelerate efforts to restore the shrinking Salton Sea before it turns into an "ecological disaster."
AB 71, sponsored by Assemblyman Manuel Perez, D-Indio, calls for the establishment of a partnership between the regional Salton Sea Authority and the California Natural Resources Agency in the interest of beginning serious work to prevent the 365-square-mile body of water from becoming a dust bowl.
"The state has had the opportunity to fix this, but they haven't done it," said Supervisor Marion Ashley, who represents the San Gorgonio Pass area. "They can't fix the Bay Delta, so who knows when they're going to get to the sea. We're telling them to get out of the way and let us try. The idea is to bring folks together to get this done."
Perez's bill would mandate that the secretary of the Department of Natural Resources work in concert with the Salton Sea Authority to come up with a process for expediting plans to shore up the century-old site and prevent further degradation that researchers believe will result in environmental hazards to residents of Imperial and Riverside counties, as well as people who reside in the southern reaches of Arizona.
"The sea keeps shrinking, and we're facing an ecological disaster," Supervisor Jeff Stone said. "We recently felt that with the overpowering stench that floated into Los Angeles County."
Last September, a gagging odor wafted across the region after desert thunderstorms dragged sulphuric fumes caused from the sea's dying plant life into the Los Angeles basin.
AB 71 would pave the way for allocation of some $56 million in local, state and federal funds reserved for sea restoration, according to board Chairman John Benoit.
"None of that money has been distributed or used because of the vacuum in state government," he said.
According to Ashley, Perez's bill has a fair chance of passing thanks to greater interest at the federal level in action being taken to save the sea.
"We have a united vision. For the first time, there's a chance to make some progress," the supervisor said. "Meanwhile, the shoreline is receding. It's going to be gone in a couple of years, and the dust is going to be blowing all over the region," posing a health threat.
The massive flood zone has been plagued with increasing salinity over the last 40 years, to the point that some of the sea's deeper places are saltier than the ocean.
According to studies, nutrient compounds from agricultural runoff have created a "eutrophic" condition where high levels of hydrogen sulfide and ammonia kill fish and produce awful odors.
Water reclamation by local agencies and Mexico, as well as a reduction of Colorado River supplies, are significantly impacting sea levels.
The board directed the county's lobbyists in Sacramento to promote and seek support for Perez's bill.
What do YOU think? Can the Sea be restored to its former glory? Tell us in the comments!