Tough Challenges Ahead for Inland Valley Communities

ParchedSaltonSeaShore-C    Recent legal, legislative and policy decisions combined with an absence of truly comprehensive planning and infrastructure investment spell a potentially grim future for Inland Southern California — if communities do not come together to demand better planning now.

A few salient examples:

  • In June 2013, the Sacramento Superior Court upheld the historic water transfers from Imperial to San Diego, without requiring that the State of California fund the restoration of the Salton Sea. Without an adequately funded restoration plan, the dying sea will cause widespread air pollution, threatening both the economic wellbeing and public health of the Imperial and Coachella Valleys. 
  • In July 2013, Governor Brown signed legislation extending 13-year old permits that allow development of large residential subdivisions without requiring any new environmental or safety review, even if conditions on the ground have changed. 
  • A recent California court decision allowed large-scale solar and renewable energy projects to fallow prime agricultural lands. Whatever the merits of renewable energy, this further decimation of U.S. agricultural production is occurring without any in-depth analysis of its potential impact on long-term domestic food security.
  • The expansion of the Port of Los Angeles / Long Beach has had a cascading effect in Inland counties. An estimated 70% of ocean freight containers arriving at the port are now transported through Inland Valley communities. The siting of ever-growing numbers of warehouse and distribution centers further reduces farmland and open space and causes increased traffic congestion and worsening air pollution from diesel trucks. Meanwhile, far-reaching decisions pertaining to the growing “goods movement industry” continue to be made without a comprehensive mitigation/infrastructure plan to offset potentially dire consequences.

The convoluted patchwork of federal, state, regional and local government entities charged with addressing growth and environmental impacts makes it extremely difficult for communities to influence their future.

Government agencies often are understaffed and/or disproportionately influenced by industry lobbyists and industry-drafted studies; in addition, their inter-jurisdictional disputes impede progress. On the other side of the spectrum are what might be called environmental ambulance chasers, whose business model is to file lawsuits raising every conceivable technicality to slow projects and extort settlements. Both extremes hinder genuine public education and development of sound public policy.

CURE’s goal is to bridge that divide.