- Created on Friday, 22 February 2013 20:41
- Written by Imperial Valley News
Mecca, California - Assemblymember Ben Hueso, (D-San Diego) chair of the Assembly Water, Parks and Wildlife Committee, together with Assemblymember V. Manuel Pérez (D-Coachella), held a state oversight hearing on the topic of Salton Sea restoration. The public hearing entitled "The Salton Sea: Current Efforts and Future Opportunities," focused on state and federal roles, air quality issues and stakeholder perspectives.
"The Salton Sea is an extremely important environmental resource of national and international significance," said Assemblymember Hueso. "The imminent collapse of this ecosystem is threatening devastating consequences on the human and wildlife environment."
"The economic, environmental and public health risks posed by the shrinking Sea are daunting, but we can and must address them," said Pérez. "Given the significance of the issues at stake, it is clearly in the state’s interest to be engaged actively. Today’s hearing is unprecedented as it is, to my knowledge, the first time a standing policy committee of the Legislature has given this level of attention to the Sea and its challenges. We continue to make progress building consensus at the local level, and I am committed to working with Assemblyman Hueso and the Committee to advance policy that supports a successful restoration."
Prior to the hearing, Hueso and Pérez took a kayaking tour of the Salton Sea to get an up-close view of the damaging impacts of the shrinking sea. Following the tour, Assemblymembers Hueso and Pérez, joined by Salton Sea Authority President Jim Hanks, held a press conference to discuss the goals and purpose of the hearing.
The three-hour hearing consisted of three panel discussions. The first panel included state and federal agency representatives from the California Natural Resources Agency, Department of Fish and Wildlife, and California Department of Water Resources. The second panel discussed air quality issues and emerging opportunities with representatives from the South Coast Air Quality Management District, the Imperial County Air Pollution Control District, San Diego Center for Algae Biotechnology, UCSD, and the Center for Energy Efficiency and Renewable Technologies. The third and final panel focused on various stakeholders’ perspectives with speakers from the Salton Sea Authority, Riverside County’s Economic Development Agency, Imperial Irrigation District, Coachella Valley Water District and the Defenders of Wildlife organization. There will also be opportunity for public comment.
Pérez has introduced the following three bills to address governance, air quality and economic development at the Sea. Hueso is a principal co-author of the measures;
AB 71 Salton Sea Restoration Governance Act – establishes a new governance model for Salton Sea decision making, requiring the state Natural Resources Agency to work in coordination and consultation with the Salton Sea Authority (SSA). It also authorizes funding from the Salton Sea Restoration Fund for the SSA to prepare a restoration funding and feasibility study. The approach in this bill secured broad consensus among the SSA, local tribes, statewide environmental organizations, and the Resources Agency last year.
AB 147 Salton Sea Air Pollution Mitigation Act – calls for the development of a strategic plan to ensure the state assesses and plans for the significant air quality impacts anticipated for the southern California region due to the implementation of the QSA.
AB 148 Salton Sea Renewable Energy & Biofuel Research and Development Program –authorizes the Natural Resources Agency, together with the Salton Sea Authority, to establish a grant program to facilitate research and the commercial development of renewable and biofuel energy resources in the Salton Sea basin.
Assemblymember Ben Hueso chairs the Assembly Water, Parks and Wildlife Committee and serves on the California Wildlife Conservation Board’s Legislative Advisory Committee. He also chairs the California/Mexico Bi-national Affairs Select Committee and represents the 80th Assembly District, which includes the City of National City and communities in Chula Vista and San Diego.
Assemblymember V. Manuel Pérez serves as Democratic Whip of the California State Assembly and as Vice Chair of the California Latino Legislative Caucus. He represents the 56th district, which comprises the cities and communities of Blythe, Brawley, Bermuda Dunes, Calexico, Calipatria, Cathedral City, Coachella, Desert Hot Springs, El Centro, Holtville, Imperial, Indio, Mecca, Oasis, North Shore, Salton Sea, Thermal, Thousand Palms, and Westmorland.