Rep. Raul Ruiz, D-Palm Desert, was joined by lawmakers from across the state Thursday in calling on Gov.-elect Gavin Newsom to make the declining Salton Sea a priority upon taking office.

Ruiz and several of his colleagues called upon Newsom to follow through on campaign promises to tackle the environmental and public health challenges posed by the receding shoreline of the state’s largest lake, in a letter penned to the Gov.-elect Thursday.

A representative for Newsom could not be immediately reached for comment.

Officials say the rapidly receding shores have exposed lakebed and toxic dust, contributing to respiratory and cardiovascular illnesses for residents living near the Salton Sea in both Riverside and Imperial counties, while rising salinity in the waters has killed off fish and the migratory birds that feed on them.

The letter calls on Newsom to immediately address mitigating the harmful effects of the shrinking lake and visit the lake within his first six months of taking office.

“As an emergency medicine physician, I treated countless patients gasping for breath during severe asthma attacks, which will likely worsen as the shoreline recedes. Bottom line, the Salton Sea is one of the most pressing environmental and public health issues facing Southern California, and Governor-elect Newsom must make mitigating its decline a priority in the first months of his administration,” Ruiz said. “With Governor-elect Newsom’s support and leadership, we can continue the all-hands-on deck, multi-stakeholder approach that is starting to deliver the kind of real, pragmatic results our communities have been demanding for decades.”

The letter was also signed by Rep. Juan Vargas, D-Chula Vista, Salud O. Carbajal, D-Santa Barbara, Grace F. Napolitano, D-Norwalk, Mark Takano, D-Riverside, Duncan Hunter, R-Alpine, and Ken Calvert, R-Corona.

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