Riverside Supervisors Contemplate $350 Million Tax for Salton Sea

A proposed tax district would help pay for restoration of the upper half of the Salton Sea if approved.

By California News Wire Services, News Partner | May 21, 2019 5:26 pm ET

RIVERSIDE COUNTY, CA — Riverside County supervisors Tuesday approved a four- month postponement of a meeting on a proposed tax district to pay for restoration of the upper half of the Salton Sea.

In a 5-0 vote without comment, the Board of Supervisors moved the previously set June 11 meeting to Oct. 15, at the same location — the North Shore Beach & Yacht Club at 9115 Sea View Drive in Mecca.

The meeting time is currently set for 11 a.m. Any changes will be publicized.

According to Executive Office staff, the date change was necessary because drawing up specifics of how the proposed Salton Sea Enhanced Infrastructure Financing District will work requires additional time, and sending notices to everyone who may be impacted by the tax district has also proved to be a chore.

Supervisors Manuel Perez and Jeff Hewitt are seated on the Enhanced Infrastructure Financing District Authority formed by the board last October. Both men are slated to attend the October meeting.

The Salton Sea EIFD will require voter support to be established.

EIFDs were authorized under Senate Bill 628 in 2014 and permit bond sales to finance construction of private and public projects. The estimated cost of shoring up the north end of the receding 360-square-mile lake is $350 million, according to the Executive Office.

The proposed EIFD would be fixed between the Imperial County line to the south and the boundaries of Coachella and Indio to the north, as well as west to the city limit of La Quinta and roughly 40 miles east of state Route 111. Torres-Martinez tribal land would be exempt.

An EIFD relies on “tax increment” to pay off the bonds issued in support of it. Tax increment is generated by projects within specified locations that increase property values.

Perez, whose Fourth District encompasses the Salton Sea’s north side, has been advocating measures to pay for projects aimed at preserving and fortifying what’s left of the dying lake, most of which is in Imperial County.

According to the Executive Office, the Salton Sea EIFD would ensure funding for an earthen dam to control water loss.

Sorting out what strategies to employ for preservation of the Salton Sea has been a two-decade process lacking results.

Executive Office staff pointed out in October that $25 million from Proposition 50 in 2006 was expended on research but no game plan for saving the Sea. Similarly, $400 million from Proposition 84 in 2014 was earmarked for projects to mitigate environmental damage from the shrinking body of water, but there was nothing proactive done.

Proposition 66, the $4 billion water bond measure approved by voters last June, set aside $200 million for Sea projects. If the state continues to tarry without applying funds to a fix, evaporation will continue, exposing more lakebed and raising public health risks, according to the county.

Water reclamation by local agencies and Mexico, plus the loss of Colorado River supplies that originally fed the Salton Sea, have caused water levels to drop and salinity to spike.

For 15 years, the Coachella Valley Water District and the Imperial Irrigation District agreed to replenish some of the water drawn out of the sea in order to limit lakebed exposure, but that mitigation effort ended on Jan. 1, 2018, leaving the area’s future ecology in doubt.

— By City News Service