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Roundtable: San Diego Encounters Trump’s Budget And Tijuana’s Sewage

San Diego & Trump's Budget; Massive Tijuana Sewage Spill


Michael Smolens, Politics & Govt. Editor, The San Diego Union-Tribune

Steve Walsh, general assignment reporter, KPBS News

Sandra Dibble, border reporter, The San Diego Union-Tribune

Joshua Emerson Smith, The San Diego Union-Tribune


San Diego meets the Trump budget

In President Donald Trump’s first pass at a federal budget, the entitlement programs — Social Security and Medicare, the biggest portions of the budget — are not touched, per his promise to voters.

Discretionary spending, however, is vastly different than under President Barack Obama.

Billions in spending cuts to most federal agencies are proposed to pay for $53 billion in increases for defense ($52.3 billion), homeland security ($2.8 billion) and veterans affairs ($4.4 billion).

Percentage-wise, the heaviest cuts fall on the Environmental Protection Agency (31%), State Department (and other agency) development programs (29%); and the Agriculture and Labor Departments (both 21%).

Trump’s budget also eliminates Housing and Urban Development's Community Development Block Grants (CDBGs), which fund anti-poverty programs and housing assistance.

San Diego budget winners and losers

If passed as proposed, some San Diego sectors will do well, some will be hurt and some will disappear altogether.

Winners would include San Diego’s defense contractors, like NASSCO and BAE shipyards, which could receive new contracts.

RELATED: White House’s First Budget Would Shine On San Diego’s Defense Sector

There will likely be more funds to aid the 230,000 veterans who live in the county.

On the other hand, San Diego's large scientific communities — academic and commercial — will suffer if funding to the National Institutes of Health is reduced. NIH is the largest U.S. underwriter of biomedical research. UC San Diego receives about $400 million a year from the NIH.

Trump’s policy toward Mexico is reflected in the budget, too. So far, he has threatened to build a big wall along the border and initiate tougher immigration restrictions and tariffs on Mexican goods. Some experts say these moves will harm the “CaliBaja” region, which generates some $200 billion in annual economic activity.

Trump’s budget eliminates funding for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. NOAA funds the Sea Grant program which generates research and support for fisheries and aquaculture. California is the largest recipient of Sea Grants, many going to the Scripps Institution of Oceanography.

RELATED: Trump's proposed budget cuts to NOAA would impact San Diego

San Diego County has 24,000 families who receive rental assistance from the Department of Housing and Urban Development in the form of $242 million in Section 8 funds for housing assistance through Community Development Block Grants. The proposed budget keeps rental assistance at the same level, but eliminates down-payment assistance and housing construction programs.

Tijuana's sewage 'accident'

The massive sewage spill which roared through the Tijuana River Valley beginning on February 6 may have been initiated on purpose.

According to a report from the International Boundary and Water Commission, the restoration of a collapsed sewage pipe in Tijuana caused the massive spill of untreated sewage into the Tijuana River Valley — a watershed shared with San Diego — and the ocean.

It was contained 17 days later, after a spill of 30, 143 or 230 million gallons, depending on who’s talking. It fouled beaches from the border to Coronado.

The problems here are failures of both communication and infrastructure. Mexico failed to notify the U.S. of the spill, but residents in Imperial Beach and Coronado noticed and complained of the stench.

Even without a major spill, sewage from some of Tijuana’s colonias is not captured or treated and ends up on San Diego beaches.

RELATED: Two countries, one sewage problem: Tijuana and San Diego grapple with renegade flows

Tijuana’s Punta Bandera treatment plant needs to be replaced, as do four other sewage trunk lines. The EPA has spent $42 million on nine wastewater projects in Tijuana, just since 1998. Trump’s budget cuts funds for the EPA’s U.S. – Mexico Border Water Infrastructure Grant Program.

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