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Federal Money May Soon Help With San Diego’s Cross Border Pollution Woes

Pollution warning sign posted in Imperial Beach near the southern end of Seac...

Photo by Erik Anderson

Above: Pollution warning sign posted in Imperial Beach near the southern end of Seacoast Drive on Jan. 31, 2020.

New federal funding could have a major impact on the cross border pollution that’s been fouling San Diego’s ocean waters for decades and the region appears to be edging closer to some solutions.

President Donald Trump signed the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement, or USMCA, trade deal into law earlier this week, helping secure relationships with the nation’s two largest trading partners.

Local elected representatives Friday discussed the newly signed USMCA and its potential impact on water pollution and cleanup in the Tijuana River Valley.

Reps. Mike Levin, D-Oceanside, Susan Davis, D-San Diego, Juan Vargas, D-San Diego, Scott Peters, D-San Diego, Imperial Beach Mayor Serge Dedina and San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer all spoke at a news conference at Chula Vista's Bayside Park.

RELATED: South Bay Officials, Residents Calls On President To Act On Border Pollution

Reported by Erik Anderson , Video by Matthew Bowler

The agreement includes $300 million to fix border pollution issues.

“The signing of this agreement, the dollars that are going to flow to clean up the sewage spills from the Tijuana River Valley, once and for all, is a shining example of what we can do when we work together,” Faulconer said.

Local officials hope the federal government decides to back construction of a new facility on the U.S. side of the border that will catch, hold and then treat sewage tainted runoff.

That new diversion and treatment plant could cut 150 days of unchecked sewage flows each year to about a dozen.

But local officials can only make a recommendation.

“That $300 million is very, very important,” Vargas said. “But now it’s very important for us to keep on top of the EPA to make sure they spend it, correctly and here and that’s going to be up to all of us.”

RELATED: 8 Million Gallons Of Tainted Water Foul Tijuana River Valley

The trade deal also includes a commitment to increase the lending power of the North American Development Bank, which can fund clean-up projects in Mexico.

That could help rebuild the collapsing sewage system in Tijuana.

Imperial Beach's Dedina said 50 million gallons of sewage-tainted water is flowing across the border every day.

“The EPA and the International Boundary and Water Commission are going nothing to get this flow of sewage that’s currently happening to be stopped. They have no plan. They’re not making an effort to do that and so, while all this is good, we have a crisis on our hands,” Dedina said.

In July 2019, Peters, Vargas and Levin introduced legislation to increase funding for Tijuana River cleanup 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.

City News Service contributed to this report

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Photo of Erik Anderson

Erik Anderson
Environment Reporter

opening quote marksclosing quote marksI focus on the environment and all the implications that a changing or challenging environment has for life in Southern California. That includes climate change, endangered species, habitat, urbanization, pollution and many other topics.

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