Imperial Beach to ask federal government for $400M for Tijuana sewage crisis

IMPERIAL BEACH (KUSI) – The Imperial Beach City Council voted on a resolution Wednesday calling on the federal government to take action to stop cross-border sewage flows in the Tijuana River Valley.

A group of officials — including San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer, Imperial Beach Mayor Serge Dedina, Port of San Diego Commissioner Dan Malcolm and county Supervisor Greg Cox — introduced a list of recommended actions Tuesday, which was voted on by City Council Wednesday evening.

The resolution calls for the government to allocate $400 million in funding to the Environmental Protection Agency to complete restoration projects in the valley that are outlined in the agency’s Tijuana River Valley Project Goals report, released in June. The plan includes capturing sewage before it hits San Diego beaches, which would solve nearly 95 percent of the problem, according to Imperial Beach Mayor Serge Dedina.

The resolution also calls for the maintenance of the chemical and biological integrity of the valley and the authorization of the EPA to work with the U.S. section of the International Boundary and Water Commission, which oversees waterways that traverse the border, to complete projects required to cleanse the valley’s water.

“The federal government is going to see vote after vote come out of the San Diego region in December with one clear message: it’s time for action,” Faulconer said Tuesday. “Our unified voice calling on Washington and Mexico City is gaining traction.”

Throughout the month, the California State Lands Commission, San Diego County Board of Supervisors, Port of San Diego Board of Port Commissioners, San Diego Regional Water Quality Control Board and the Chula Vista, San Diego and Coronado city councils will also consider the proposal.

“This resolution represents a united voice with all of our partners in the region,” San Diego City Councilwoman Vivian Moreno said Tuesday. “The agreed- upon list of projects will begin to address an environmental disaster that has impacted South Bay residents for far too long.”

Transborder pollution from the Tijuana River has contaminated U.S. waters and coastlines for decades, forcing the county to regularly close beach access near the border. During that time, local and state officials and environmental activists have called for federal assistance to protect the health of the environment and residents near the border.

In April, Sens. Kamala Harris and Dianne Feinstein, both D-California, submitted a jointly written letter to multiple federal agencies requesting they address sewage runoff in the river.

In July, Reps. Juan Vargas, D-San Diego; Scott Peters, D-San Diego; and Mike Levin, D-Oceanside, introduced legislation to increase funding for Tijuana River clean-up efforts and prevention of future pollution. And in September, the San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce’s annual delegation of local officials and business leaders discussed the issue with cabinet officials and members of Congress.

The San Diego chapter of the Surfrider Foundation and the city of San Diego have also filed lawsuits against the IBWC, arguing that it has neglected pollution in the river and its effect on the environment. The city jointly filed its lawsuit with California Attorney General Xavier Becerra.

“One of the Surfrider San Diego Chapter’s primary goals during the last 18 months has been to work with agencies and the community to reach consensus on a Tijuana River Valley solution,” Surfrider policy coordinator Gabriela Torres said. “We believe that the only missing piece towards progress is the support of the federal government.”

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