Changes sought in Salton Sea bill

May 29, 2002|By LAURA MITCHELL

Staff Writer

After discussion in a closed session Tuesday, the county Board of Supervisors directed its legal representative to suggest changes to legislation that proposes to protect the Salton Sea and the endangered species that live there.

The reason the item was discussed in closed session is not clear.

The law dictating the rules for government agencies on open meetings, the Ralph M. Brown Act, states legitimate reasons for closed session discussion include litigation, potential litigation, personnel and public safety issues.

The legislation and proposed rewording are not directly connected in litigation with the county, County Counsel Ralph Cordova Jr. said. The legislation, Senate Bill 482, was addressed in closed session as potential litigation related to water transfer issues, Cordova said.


The bill, the California Endangered Species Act Expansion by state Sen. Sheila Kuehl, D-Los Angeles, proposes to protect the Salton Sea and redefine sections of the state Fish and Game Code. The code changes would give more protection to endangered species and species that are candidates for the endangered species list.

The board wrote a letter in April to Assemblyman Joe Canciamila, chairman of the Committee on Water, Parks and Wildlife opposing the bill.

The board's letter stated the county is concerned about impacts to the Salton Sea that could occur under the terms of the proposed Colorado River water transfer. The letter stated the county supports any legislation that would protect or restore the Salton Sea.

County Planning Director Jurg Heuberger said the county's opposition to the legislation would drop if new language on fallowing, or idling farmland, is accepted into the bill. But Heuberger said Kuehl might not accept the changes.

The county wants its attorney to suggest the following changes in the bill's language:

"Fallowing shall not be recognized as a land- or water-conservation measure unless both the board of supervisors of the county in which the fallowing is to take place, and the (State Water Resources Control) Board, determine that the fallowing together with enforceable mitigation measures will not produce unreasonable environmental and economic effects in that county."

Cordova said the supervisors have nothing to hide regarding S.B. 482. He said the board had the discussion in closed session because of potential county litigation on the water transfer, which led to the discussion on S.B. 482.

Cordova could not comment on the county's potential involvement in a lawsuit related to the water transfer

>> Staff Writer Laura Mitchell can be reached at 337-3452 or

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