Divided by the international border, San Diego shares a watershed with Tijuana. As a result, any sewage flows from Tijuana’s tightly packed neighborhoods that are not captured and sent for treatment risk ending up downstream on the beaches of southern San Diego County. Rain places additional pressure on Tijuana’s subterranean network of sewage pipes, many of which are in need of replacement. Mexican officials have said that upgrading the sewage treatment plant – the likely source of the pollution – is a top priority but would cost at least $372 million.
The Tijuana River Valley pollution issue was a key priority during the Chamber’s 2017 binational delegation trip to Washington D.C. and discussed at meetings with the EPA, Department of State, Customs and Border Protection, Congress, Ambassador of Mexico, and Sen. Dianne Feinstein. Significant progress was made in gaining commitments from both federal agencies and legislators to seek funds to remedy the long-standing problem in a coordinated binational effort.
Proposals to overcome this issue consist of including the issue as part of the NAFTA negotiations, committing to a measurable plan of action between both governments; Imperial Beach, Chula Vista, and the Port of San Diego joined forces to sue the federal government to stop wastewater and raw sewage from continually pouring over the border from Tijuana into San Diego County; and Senate Bill 507, authored by Sen. Hueso, was approved reallocating $2.1 million in funds for a recovery plan for the Tijuana River Valley.
Senate Bill 507, authored by Senator Hueso and Assembly member Gloria, reallocates funds previously designated for use by San Diego County under the Wildlife, Coastal, and Park Land Conservation Act. Up to $500,000 of the money will go to a recovery plan for the Tijuana River Valley, while the rest of the funds can be used on the rehabilitation of the impacted area and an envisioned park. Similarly, Congressmembers Issa and Vargas have introduced bipartisan legislation to rehabilitate the Tijuana River Valley, following ongoing wastewater spills and to implement measures to prevent such spills in the future. The Tijuana River Valley Comprehensive Protection and Rehabilitation Act of 2017 would provide grant funding and design a plan to update the region’s infrastructure to prevent the flooding of sewage, trash, and sediment into the Tijuana River Valley.
The Chamber has approached both the U.S. and Mexican governments advocating for the design of a work plan between both governments to increase measurable efforts in mitigating the pollution and minimize/eliminate water deficits to the U.S. A letter was submitted to Congress in support of financial resources in the 2018 spending to help fund the Border Wastewater Infrastructure Program. This issue will continue to be a top priority for the Chamber in upcoming delegation trips to Mexico City and Washington, D.C.