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San Diego Congressional Reps Introduce Bills To Fight Tijuana River Pollution

The San Diego congressional delegation introduce a package of bills aimed at ...

Photo by Erik Anderson

Above: The San Diego congressional delegation introduce a package of bills aimed at tackling pollution in the Tijuana River Valley, July 2, 2019.

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A group of San Diego County's congressional representatives introduced a package of bills Monday to address and mitigate pollution in the Tijuana River Valley.

Aired: July 23, 2019 | Transcript

A group of San Diego County's congressional representatives introduced a package of bills Monday to address and mitigate pollution in the Tijuana River Valley.

The bills unveiled by Reps. Juan Vargas, D-San Diego, Scott Peters, D-San Diego and Mike Levin, D-Oceanside, would boost funding to clean up the river and prevent future water contamination while a resolution from Susan Davis, D-San Diego, would encourage the Department of the Navy to focus on pollution in the river as a national security issue.

"Today, the San Diego delegation is proud to introduce a comprehensive bill package to support mitigation efforts in the Tijuana River Valley," Vargas said. "Together, we are taking meaningful action toward reducing, and one day hopefully, eliminating cross-border pollution from flowing into the United States."

Vargas and Peters' bill would expand infrastructure funding by $1.5 billion through the North American Development Bank, which would receive a mandate to prioritize projects based around water treatment and pollution. The bill would also establish a fund through which unallocated federal money could be used to protect water along the U.S.-Mexico border.

Photo by Erik Anderson

Sun rises over Tijuana River Estuary on Jan. 18, 2019

RELATED: More Water Testing May Be Coming For Tijuana River Valley

Levin's bill would also fund pollution mitigation and water conservation projects by increasing the Border Water Infrastructure Fund by $150 million per year through 2024. Funding would be split evenly between the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's Region 6, which includes Texas and New Mexico, and Region 9, which includes California and Arizona.

"The greater San Diego region has battled pollution from the Tijuana River Valley for years, with sewage and garbage contaminating our waters and desecrating our beaches," Levin said. "Concrete, substantive action to address this issue and protect our environment is long overdue."

Pollution in the Tijuana River has affected U.S. waterways for decades, forcing beaches in San Diego County to close for extended periods due to pollutants like raw sewage flowing from across the border. Local and state officials and environmental activists have long called for federal intervention to protect the health and safety of residents near the border.

In April, San Diego's congressional Democrats jointly wrote a letter with Sens. Kamala Harris and Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., to urge the directors of the State Department, Environmental Protection Agency, Customs and Border Protection, Army Corps of Engineers and the U.S. section of the International Boundary and Water Commission to address sewage runoff in the river.

In response to lethargic action to mitigate pollution in the river, the San Diego Surfrider Foundation and the city of San Diego filed separate lawsuits last year against the IBWC, which oversees waterways that traverse the border, arguing that the commission has been negligent of the river's harmful effects. The city jointly filed the suit with California Attorney General Xavier Becerra.

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