Salton Sea Restoration Project Proposed

Tax increase would fund new water source

The Salton Sea remains California's biggest lake, even at its reduced levels. (Akos Kokai/Flickr)

Help may be on the way for California’s suffering Salton Sea.

Due to increasing salinity and changes in water appropriations of the Colorado River under the Quantification Settlement Agreement, the Salton Sea is increasingly more like a dustbowl than a lake. A historical lack of government funding has prevented conservation efforts in the past, but a newly proposed sales tax increase would change that.

Assemblyman Brian Nestande of California announced on Monday his initiative to employ a quarter-cent sales tax increase in the Coachella Valley, where the Salton Sea is located. The money raised would pay for an earthen dike to be constructed across the northern portion of the Salton Sea. The damlike structure would create a new body of water the size of Lake Arrowhead that would be fed by runoff and preserve the northern shoreline.

Nestande said the Coachella Valley has the most at stake economically and environmentally, and local buy-in efforts are best. “No one’s ever talked about a funding source. This is how we fund it,” he said in a report from the Desert Sun. Along with tax increases, Nestande is also sponsoring the promotion of at least 7,500 Salton Sea license plates. The plates will sell for $50, and drivers can preregister for them. 

The cost of the dike and restoration project has not been officially estimated, but reports state that it would range from $225 million to $510 million. “While I tend to be cautious when it comes to new taxes or fees, I do like the idea that revenues generated locally are used locally,” said Assemblyman V. Manuel Pérez in a Desert Sun op-ed. “It goes without saying that we need action at all levels when it comes to the sea.”

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