/Border Report: Region Re-Ups Pleas for Federal Help With Border Sewage

Border Report: Region Re-Ups Pleas for Federal Help With Border Sewage

The remnants of a plastic doll lay alongside the Tijuana River. / Photo by Sam Hodgson

San Diego officials are continuing to pressure the federal government to fix the border region’s sewage issues.

Last week, the cities of Imperial Beach, Chula Vista, Coronado and San Diego, as well as San Diego County, Port of San Diego, San Diego Regional Water Quality Control Board and the California State Lands Commission, passed resolutions to recommend federal action on cross-border pollution in the Tijuana River Valley.

Tijuana is built into hillsides, where rainwater — or sewage when the wastewater system fails — naturally drains toward the U.S.-Mexico border and into the Pacific Ocean. The city has grown rapidly for decades and its water infrastructure hasn’t kept up, exacerbating the problem. The sewage and contamination flows from Tijuana have closed public beaches in San Diego for more than 200 days this year, according to Courthouse News.

The new resolution calls on the federal government to fund Environmental Protection Agency projects that would help restore and maintain the Tijuana River Valley. The resolution also directs the EPA and the International Boundary and Water Commission to execute the projects in a timely matter, Courthouse News reports.

The EPA unveiled the plan in June to eventually quell the beach closures caused by the cross-border pollution. The projects outlined in the plan would require more than $200 million, including improvements to Mexico’s water-diversion system to prevent the flows from reaching San Diego and another diversion system north of the border. The U.S.-funded projects south of the border would require at least a 50 percent match in funding from Mexico.

Regional leaders have traveled to Washington D.C., to lobby Trump administration officials to secure the funding, the Union-Tribune reports.

The resolution follows a series of lawsuits filed last year by local cities, agencies and California alleging that the federal government’s handling of the cross-border pollution has violated the Clean Water Act. This year, multiple federal bills by San Diego congressional representatives have also secured tens of millions of dollars to address the pollution issue. Sen. Dianne Feinstein secured nearly $20 million for the EPA to increase its efforts in addressing the cross-border sewage flows in October.

More Border News

  • Four new lanes opened at the San Ysidro Port of Entry. An additional four are scheduled to be opened this month. These eight lanes will mark the final step in the San Ysidro Port of Entry expansion project, which started in 2011. It is the first major expansion in the number of border lanes since the site was constructed in 1976. (Union-Tribune)
  • Four Border Patrol agents didn’t follow department rules when they opened fire in two separate incidents in San Diego County, the National Use of Force Review Board found. (Associated Press)
  • Immigrant rights attorneys filed an emergency motion in San Diego federal court to block a new government policy that will send asylum-seekers at the U.S.-Mexico border to a third country — Honduras, Guatemala or El Salvador — to wait out their asylum claims. Last week, the first Salvadoran asylum-seeker was sent back to Guatemala under the policy. In November, the first Honduran asylum-seeker was sent to Guatemala under the agreement.  (City News Service, Reuters)
  • Cerveceria Insurgente, a popular brewery, remains closed due to a permit dispute involving Baja California Gov. Jaime Bonilla. (Union-Tribune)
  • Gov. Gavin Newsom joined Bonilla and Baja California Sur Gov. Carlos Mendoza signed a Memorandum of Understanding re-establishing the Commission of the Californias. The agreement will allow officials to share information on key areas of interest, including environment and energy, transportation and infrastructure, emergency preparedness, economic development, agriculture and public health.