KUSI News: San Diego leaders discuss funding for Tijuana sewage crisis

January 31, 2020
In The News

SAN DIEGO (KUSI) – While much still needs to be done, local leaders were positively estatic today that hundreds of millions of dollars has been directed at fixing the longest-running pollution issue in the country.  We’re talking, of course, about the Tijuana sewage crisis, which is worse than ever AND, the $300,000,000 that’s been earmarked for the fix that’s part of the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Trade Agreement.

No question say four local Congress people and two local mayors, after decades of Washington turning a blind eye to an unsurpassed sewage crisis, the two lawsuits that include several local cities, the Port District and the state, citing violations of the Clean Water Act, finally got the attention of the Federal Government.   But it was the window provided by the United States-Mexico-Canada Trade Agreement that got the money necessary to put a real dent in the issue. And according to those gathered at Chula Vista’s Bayfront Park, it was 49th District Congressman Mike Levin, who helped make sure the money for the Border Water Infrastructure Program or “BWIP, involved an amount that would make a difference in the Tijuana River Valley:

Levin:  “In the past, BWIP got as little as $15,000,000 a year for water infrastructure for the entire border.  This year, believe it or not, the Trump budget for fiscal 2020 had no money for the BWIP program.”

Having said that, everyone agreed close scrutiny will have to be paid as to the money being spent as intended.  And, fast-tracking the infrastructure, i.e., waiving something like an Environmental Impact Report, which can take years, only to come back and say, “Yeah, there’s sewage in the Tijuana River Valley.”

We also note:  Even though the language in the agreement is specific to the local crisis, two EPA regions are involved in the program and the other includes Texas. That led to this exchange with Congressman Scott Peters:
“Just for perspective on your question Ed, in the 90s, Texas had terrible sewage issues and millions went toward that.  We think now, we have the bigger problems.  And we think that’s justification for this.”

We also asked about the two lawsuits.  All parties have agreed to stay them, we were told, pending the fast-tracked building of a Diversion and Treatment facility in the Valley.

Finally, there is the issue of Mexico doing it’s part and we don’t mean Tijuana or Baja.  This, from Congressman Juan Vargas:  “Their budgets are quite small. Most of the tax money goes to Mexico City, then it comes back. Now there’s a mechanism involving the North American Bank to draw these monies down. If we had to rely on Tijuana or Baja, it’s not going to happen.  But they don’t want their beaches polluted either.  Now there’s a mechanism involving the Bank.  But we’ve told them you have to be just as aggressive as we’ve been. Because we’ve been, now you have to be.  Because this effects you guys too.”

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