Assemblymember Eduardo Garcia speaking to the Assembly Select Committee on Renewable Energy Development and Restoration of the Salton Sea
Assemblymember Eduardo Garcia speaking to the Assembly Select Committee on Renewable Energy Development and Restoration of the Salton Sea. Courtesy of ASMDC.org

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Assembly Bill 965, written by Eduardo Garcia from the 56th District, amends previous legislation to increase cooperation with Mexico and allocates money to be used for watershed restoration projects along the US-Mexico border. [1] Specifically, AB 965 adds the Secretary of State and Consumer Services to the California-Mexico Border Relations Council as a voting member, and it allows the US EPA Region 9 to appoint a non-voting representative to the council as well. Similarly, the bill also requires the council to invite representatives from Mexico to any meetings that are held by the council. As far as resource allocation, the bill makes funds available from the California Border Environmental and Public Health Protection Fund to the California-Mexico Border Relations Council, to be used to:

“… identify and resolve environmental and public health problems that directly threaten the health or environmental quality of California residents or sensitive natural resources of the California border region, including projects related to domestic and industrial wastewater, vehicle and industrial air emissions, hazardous waste transport and disposal, human and ecological risk, and disposal of municipal solid waste.” [2]

The council will then use some of this funding to establish the New River Water Quality, Public Health, and River Parkway Development Program. This program will help the city of Calexico identify water quality concerns with the New River, identify actions to be taken, and partner with appropriate federal, state, or local agencies to create a river parkway and river improvements that increase the water quality of the New River, using funding it received in 2009. Similarly, AB 965 appropriates $285 million dollars from the Water Quality, Supply, and Infrastructure Improvement Act of 2014 to the Department of Fish and Wildlife to be used for river and watershed restoration with provisions that prevent this money from being spent on the bay delta.

So what does it all mean? This bill appears to be very beneficial to Calexico in particular, but also to all of Imperial County and the Salton Sea. Any improvements in the water quality of the New River will decrease the rate at which the water quality of the Salton Sea degrades. The construction of a river parkway in Calexico and improvements to the water quality of the New River will increase the quality of life for the people of Imperial County. Also, the funds allocated to the USFWS are not just limited to the New River, so there is a possibility that they could be used for the Alamo River as well. This bill will increase cooperation between the US and Mexico, which is good news, because the health problems associated with the drying of the Sea will also affect Mexican residents. This increased cooperation may help pave the way for an international solution to the problems facing the Salton Sea.

The New River
New River, near Brawley, CA. Photo courtesy of GreetingsFromTheSaltonSea.com

Written by Jaben Richards


[1] AB 965 California and Mexico border: water resources improvement https://leginfo.legislature.ca.gov/faces/billTextClient.xhtml?bill_id=201520160AB965

[2] AB 965 Chapter 668 Section 5 (c)