Action is needed was a central theme at a state hearing held Monday at the North Shore Yacht Club.
And for many at the meeting, that means handing down control for restoration of the sea to local leaders as opposed to a council made up of mostly state officials.
The Salton Sea Restoration Council, made up of mostly state and few local members, was set to take up the reins on sea restoration. However, the group has not yet met though it was formed more than a year ago.
Perez introduced a bill this year to allow the Salton Sea Authority, a joint powers authority made up of Riverside County, Imperial County, Coachella Valley Water District, Imperial Irrigation District and the Torres-Martinez Desert Cahuilla Indian Tribe, to take over those responsibilities and kick start the restoration efforts.
The meeting Monday helped to drum up some support from different legislators and different parties for the bill, Perez said, referencing the two other assemblymen, Republican Assemblyman Brian Jones and Democrat Assemblyman Richard Gordon.
Locals need to drive the efforts to bring back the Salton Sea, and they’re more than ready to take on that responsibility, Perez said.
The bill, AB 939 Salton Sea Governance, is pending approval in the Senate Committee on Natural Resources and Water, according to a fact sheet about the bill.
Locals pushed their support of the bill at Monday’s hearing.
The message of the hearing was that local people need to control how the sea is restored, said Riverside County Supervisor John Benoit. The interest is local, not at the state level.
The Salton Sea Authority, which Benoit sits on as a Riverside County representative, needs to take the leading role instead of having the state keep pushing restoration efforts down the road, he said.
Those taking up the Salton Sea restoration efforts at the state level have “no real skin in the games, no real attachment to it,” said Imperial County Supervisor Gary Wyatt. There’s action taken on other water projects in areas with bigger populations, but nothing in this rural region.
“The answer isn’t Big Brother riding to the rescue, because it isn’t coming,” Wyatt said. “Locals need to lead the way.”
Residents have been fighting the fight for years and are still strong supporters of the sea, even though efforts have persisted since long before he became a supervisor 12 years ago, he said.
“The sea needs help, and it needs it now,” he said.
Wyatt’s impassioned talk brought a round of applause among the residents that filled two rooms at the yacht club. Of the other officials and residents who spoke, many expressed similar concerns about nothing getting done.
The state came up with a plan that is nowhere near being implemented, said Steve Robbins, Coachella Valley Water District general manager. Perez’s bill to give control locally is great.
“We cannot do nothing,” Robbins said. “Doing nothing will be a disaster for all of us.”
Staff Writer Elizabeth Varin can be reached at email@example.com or 760-337-3441.