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Riverside County, CA November 4, 2008 Election
Smart Voter

Save the Salton Sea

By Brian Nestande

Candidate for Member of the State Assembly; District 64

This information is provided by the candidate
Forming a public/private partnership to save the Salton Sea from turning into an environmental disaster is a goal worth pursuing as the state does not have sufficient financial resources.
Governor Schwarzenegger recently spoke of his initiative to build public/private partnerships to help improve California's infrastructure. Locally, we have an opportunity in the Coachella Valley to initiate our own public/ private partnership to better our entire region and restore the Salton Sea. The project has the potential to enhance our environment and improve our local economy for generations to come. I am committed to help bring together the necessary representatives from the private sector and government agencies in order to begin the process of restoration of the Sea.

The effort to restore the Salton Sea is floundering. The future of the Sea leaves us with few options as water levels continue to decrease. The sea will ultimately become either a large sump turning into a dust bowl or a vibrant eco-system with reasonable residential and tourist industry development with fantastic recreational opportunities.

A recent report by the State Legislative analyst suggests that there is no realistic financing plan for a $9 billion dollar restoration program. The report states that the general fund is the likely source of money. With a current deficit of $16 billion, it is highly unlikely that the Sea could ever receive more than a fraction of the cost.

Unfortunately, the proposed solution from the state is a new 14 member Salton Sea Conservancy. The path to restoration should not depend on a new bureaucracy. Rather, I believe the solution is the creation of a public private partnership just as the Governor is looking to do for other state projects.

Governor Schwarzenegger has met with the leaders in France and Canada to discuss their use of public private partnerships (PPPs) as they are successfully used throughout Europe, Canada and Australia. PPPs have resulted in significant taxpayer savings while attracting billions of dollars in private monies for large projects.

In utilizing a public private partnership, we must first design a project which is financially feasible through local bonding and private investment. By creating self-contained lakes in the North and South part of the Sea, (the size of the lakes should be determined by financing which is provable) we can have recreational lakes within 5-7 years. Engineering and financial studies showed that one of the proposed lakes alone would be four times larger than Big Bear Lake and can be built in the north part of the sea for less than 500 million dollars.

I believe we can initiate an approach which can have multiple objectives while moving quickly to solve the immediate crisis. These steps are as follows:

1. Immediately implement the infrastructure finance district (similar to a redevelopment agency) to capture future revenue growth needed for bonding.

2. Create two small lakes inside the Sea: one in the North and one in the South. These lakes can be built within 5-7 years and will create an investment flow in the defined areas.

3. Allow for the continued planning of the larger body of water. Arguments still exist regarding the actual long term water flows to the Sea. These flows ultimately determine the size, shape and environmental composition of the Sea.

Once again we should start by building what we know is financially feasible and can be accomplished in a relatively short period of time. We need to control our own destiny while being at the forefront of the public private partnership initiatives. In the end, we all know that depending solely on a government-run solution may only result in continued inaction which benefits nobody.

(Brian Nestande is a government affairs consultant and also a candidate for the 64th State Assembly District).

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