July 15, 1998
The Administration appreciates Congress' commitment to address the serious
problems facing the Salton Sea. Although the Administration endorses the
concept of restoring the Salton Sea, it strongly opposes H.R. 3267. The
Administration has worked and will continue to work with the Congress to
develop legislation that we can support. However, the amended bill
contains certain provisions that would compromise the Government's ability
to develop a cost-effective, environmentally sensitive restoration for the
Salton Sea ecosystem. Some of the bill's provisions also raise significant
constitutional issues as described below.
The Salton Sea ecosystem is under severe stress. Although it currently functions as the permanent home for a number of wildlife and fish species and as an important stop for thousands of migratory birds, its increasing salinity, combined with other contaminants in the ecosystem, are harming much of this wildlife. In recent years, there have been a significant number of serious bird and fish kills at the Sea. In addition, the Sea's value as a recreational resource has declined.
As a result of the Administration's concern about the situation, the Secretary of the Interior has initiated an open review process under the National Environmental Protection Act (NEPA) and the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) to identify and evaluate the potential options for the Salton Sea on an expedited schedule.
The Secretary has also been working with leaders from the State of California, the Salton Sea Authority, the Torrez-Martinez Tribe, and the local area to coordinate and focus research and funding related to the Sea's restoration. As part of these intergovernmental efforts, a Science Subcommittee has been formed to address scientific issues related to the Sea.
H.R. 3267 is inconsistent, as described below, with the principles that the Administration believes should underlie the Salton Sea restoration effort.
The Administration prefers the approach taken in the proposed Miller substitute which would authorize a study of options to restore the Salton Sea, and then require the Secretary, in part, to submit a report on the recommendations of the study. The Miller substitute would require action on the part of the Secretary without assuming or providing funding for undefined and costly construction. The Administration would support the Miller substitute.