Report 2013-101 Recommendation 8 Responses

Report 2013-101: Salton Sea Restoration Fund: The State Has Not Fully Funded a Restoration Plan and the State's Future Mitigation Costs Are Uncertain (Release Date: November 2013)

Recommendation #8 To: Natural Resources Agency, California

To ensure that the Legislature has the information necessary to meet the State's restoration goals and to plan for the State's future financial obligations related to mitigation, the Resources Agency should work with Fish and Wildlife and Water Resources to develop an estimate of the costs, adjusted for inflation, that the State may incur for fulfilling its financial obligations related to mitigation under the QSA. The Resources Agency should include this information in the feasibility study so the Legislature is fully aware of the estimated costs and timing of the State's future financial obligations.

Agency Response*

The Governor formed the Salton Sea Task Force in the Budget May Revision of 2015 to identify short, medium and long term actions for the Salton Sea. The Task Force has been meeting with stakeholders and Legislators concerning the Feasibility Study. Once developed, the actions will have cost estimates and anticipated timing for development. Because urgent needs at the Sea must be immediately addressed, and because there are existing funding limitations, it is most likely that the portion of the study focused on expected future conditions will only focus on the Sea itself rather than the expanded area beyond the Sea that is covered by the QSA. For the Sea, the feasibility study will update cost estimates for anticipated actions to address both potential health and ecosystem impacts of the QSA and the natural overall long-term degradation of water quality there. These actions will encompass many of the same types of projects that QSA participating agencies will need to fund in order to meet their mitigation liabilities.

Concurrently, the Department of Fish and Wildlife is also working with partners from the federal government and the state of Arizona to implement the Lower Colorado River Basin Multiple Species Plan (LCRBMS). While this effort encompasses a greater project area than that covered by the QSA, the actions address the health and ecosystem impacts of the QSA which are provided by the LCRBMS and have been attributed current cost estimates.

Together, both cost estimates derived by the feasibility study and projects developed for the LCRBMS will provide the information necessary to generally forecast total mitigation liabilities for QSA signatories. However, in order to provide a final determination of liability, these cost estimates will need to be aggregated with actual impacts of QSA implementation and the results of the implementation of different types of projects that will be tested through state and local pilot projects.

  • Response Type†: Annual Follow Up
  • Completion Date: September 2015
  • Response Date: October 2016

California State Auditor's Assessment of Status: Pending

We will not report this recommendation as fully implemented until the cost estimates are developed and included in the completed feasibility study.

  • Auditee did not address all aspects of the recommendation

Agency Response*

The Governor formed the Salton Sea Task Force in the Budget May Revision of 2015 to identify short, medium and long term actions for the Salton Sea. The Task Force has been meeting with stakeholders and Legislators concerning the Feasibility Study. Once developed, the actions will have cost estimates and anticipated timing for development. Because urgent needs at the Sea must be immediately addressed, and because there are existing funding limitations, it is most likely that the portion of the study focused on expected future conditions will only focus on the Sea itself rather than the expanded area beyond the Sea that is covered by the QSA. For the Sea, the feasibility study will update cost estimates for anticipated actions to address both potential health and ecosystem impacts of the QSA and the natural overall long-term degradation of water quality there. These actions will encompass many of the same types of projects that QSA participating agencies will need to fund in order to meet their mitigation liabilities.

Concurrently, the Department of Fish and Wildlife is also working with partners from the federal government and the state of Arizona to implement the Lower Colorado River Basin Multiple Species Plan (LCRBMS). While this effort encompasses a greater project area than that covered by the QSA, the actions address the health and ecosystem impacts of the QSA which are provided by the LCRBMS and have been attributed current cost estimates.

Together, both cost estimates derived by the feasibility study and projects developed for the LCRBMS will provide the information necessary to generally forecast total mitigation liabilities for QSA signatories. However, in order to provide a final determination of liability, these cost estimates will need to be aggregated with actual impacts of QSA implementation and the results of the implementation of different types of projects that will be tested through state and local pilot projects.

  • Response Type†: Annual Follow Up
  • Completion Date: September 2015
  • Response Date: September 2015

California State Auditor's Assessment of Status: Pending

We will not report this recommendation as fully implemented until the cost estimates are developed and included in the completed feasibility study.

  • Auditee did not address all aspects of the recommendation

Agency Response*

The Salton Sea Funding and Feasibility Study currently underway but the Natural Resources Agency and the Salton Sea Authority will look at all of the cost components to meeting air quality needs at the sea. When the Study is complete, expected in May 2016, those costs could be compared with expected impacts and expenditures from non state funds to attain an estimate of what potential fiscal costs the Sea may present to the state.

  • Response Type†: 1-Year
  • Estimated Completion Date: 2016
  • Response Date: November 2014

California State Auditor's Assessment of Status: Pending


Agency Response*

The feasibility study will be looking at all of the cost components to meeting air quality needs at the sea. Once that report is complete, those costs could be compared with expected impacts and expenditures from non state funds to attain an estimate of what potential fiscal costs the Sea may present to the state.

  • Response Type†: 6-Month
  • Estimated Completion Date: June 2016
  • Response Date: June 2014

California State Auditor's Assessment of Status: Pending


Agency Response*

The Natural Resources is still in the process of scoping the feasibility study with the Salton Sea Authority, stakeholders, and the legislature. Because urgent needs at the Sea must be immediately addressed, and because there are existing funding limitations, it is most likely that the portion of the study focused on expected future conditions will only focus on the Sea itself rather than the expanded area beyond the Sea that is covered by the QSA. For the Sea, the feasibility study will update cost estimates for anticipated actions to address both potential health and ecosystem impacts of the QSA and the natural overall long-term degradation of water quality there. These actions will encompass many of the same types of projects that QSA participating agencies will need to fund in order to meet their mitigation liabilities.

Concurrently, the Department of Fish and Wildlife is also working with partners from the federal government and the state of Arizona to implement the Lower Colorado River Basin Multiple Species Plan (LCRBMS). While this effort encompasses a greater project area than that covered by the QSA, where there is jurisdictional overlap, actions to address health and ecosystem impacts of the QSA are provided by the LCRBMS and have been attributed current cost estimates.

Together, both cost estimates derived by the feasibility study and projects developed for the LCRBMS will provide the information necessary to generally forecast total mitigation liabilities for QSA signatories. However, in order to provide a final determination of liability, these cost estimates will need to be aggregated with actual impacts of QSA implementation and the results of the implementation of different types of projects that will be tested through state and local pilot projects.

  • Response Type†: 60-Day
  • Estimated Completion Date: March 2015
  • Response Date: February 2014

California State Auditor's Assessment of Status: Pending

The Resources Agency states that it is most likely that the portion of the study focused on expected future conditions will only focus on the Sea itself rather than the expanded area beyond the Sea that is covered by the QSA. However, as stated in our recommendation, the Resources Agency should include in its feasibility study an estimate of the costs, adjusted for inflation, that the State may incur for fulfilling its financial obligations related to mitigation under the QSA. Thus, to the extent the Resources Agency includes a cost estimate in the feasibility study that is limited to the Sea itself, it should clearly explain the scope and limitations of this cost estimate.


All Recommendations in 2013-101

†Response Type refers to the interval in which the auditee is providing the State Auditor with their status in implementing recommendations made in an audit report. Auditees must submit a response regarding their progress in implementing recommendations from our reports at three intervals from the release of the report: 60 days, six months, and one year or subsequent to one year.

*Agency responses received after June 2013 are posted verbatim.


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