Lt. Governor Newsom visited shrinking lake in CA that is posing public health risks & harming local ecosystems


SACRAMENTO - Prior to Thursday's State Lands Commission meeting in Palm Springs, Lt. Governor Newsom visited Imperial County to observe the environmental, ecological, and public health challenges that have resulted from the shrinking of the Salton Sea, California's largest lake. Lt. Governor Newsom also visited a local geothermal plant to learn about geothermal power and how renewable energy development on state lands contributes to California's renewable energy goals, while also stimulating Imperial County's economy.

In the recent years, the sea's water level has shrunk drastically, resulting in an increase in salinity, loss of critical habitat, and exposure of dry lakebed. These effects diminish the Salton Sea's ecosystem services that are crucial to support wildlife, such as Pacific Flyway migratory birds. As the Salton Sea dries, the exposed lakebed becomes a source of dust emissions and air pollution that harms local communities living in proximity to the lake.

Adjacent to the Salton Sea are geothermal plants that hold leases with the State Lands Commission, on which the Lt. Governor is a voting member. Imperial County has some of the highest-producing geothermal wells in the world, reflecting the region's great potential for renewable energy development. In 2016, geothermal energy accounted for about 4% of California's electricity, and about 20% of in-state renewable generation. Investing in geothermal energy production in Imperial County can help reinvigorate the local economy and contribute to the state's renewable energy portfolio.

Last year, the state approved a restoration plan to mitigate further environmental, economic, and public health consequences in the Salton Sea area. This restoration plan will create infrastructure to deliver water to mitigation areas for wetland restoration and dust suppression projects. Without intervention, the Salton Sea is expected to shrink by 60% by 2030, at the detriment of over 400 species of migratory birds and at least 42,000 Californians.