The Environmental Protection Agency has provided a list of 10 projects currently being evaluated by its team of engineers. Environmental and Natural Resources Director Chris Helmer led a presentation and discussion during the last council meeting on Feb. 3.
Helmer first spoke of the past storm, which in terms of intensity was a 5-year event. In the aftermath, he took photos and videos of the trash, debris and sewage that came through from Mexico. He showed a photo of Canyon del Sol with a large amount of various debris. He explained that the EPA is currently working on a list of projects for funding under the new United States, Mexico and Canada Trade Agreement. The city, local and state partners are part of the EPA workgroup called Eligible Public Entities Coordinating Group. The purpose of this group is to advise the EPA on the technical analysis study for a plan for the Tijuana River. The EPA has 10 projects under evaluation:
New Tijuana River Diversion System and treatment in the U.S.
Expand and Upgrade Tijuana River Diversion System in Mexico and Provide Treatment in the U.S.
Treat Wastewater from the International Collector at the International Treatment Plant (ITP).
Shift Wastewater Treatment of Canyon Flows to U.S. (via Expanded ITP or South Bay Water Reclamation Plant) to Reduce Flows in Tijuana River and San Antonio de los Buenso (SAB).
Enhance Mexico Wastewater Collection System to Reduce Flows into Tijuana River.
Construct New Infrastructure to Address Trash and Sediment.
Divert or Reuse Treated Wastewater from Existing Wastewater Treatment Plants in Mexico to Reduce Flows into the Tijuana River.
Upgrade SAB Wastewater Treatment Plant to Reduce Untreated Wastewater to Coast.
Treat Wastewater from the International Collector at the South Bay Water Reclamation Plant.
Sediment and Trash Source Control.
Helmer said a lot of efforts are being made in the river valley to try to identify how the $300 million received a year-and-a-half ago will be spent on improvements. Helmer spoke of project No. 1 and how the state is pushing to achieve some kind of diversion to capture dry weather and rainy weather flows and possibly stop up to 163 million gallons a day.
When asked for a timeframe for the start of any one of the projects, Helmer said the city believes International Boundary Water Commission (IBWC) could start on one under their own authority. Helmer said, “The problem is IBWC is not taking action… We’re working closely with our congressional representatives to change the legislation that tells IBWC what to do, so they could implement some right now… As far as the EPA, it will follow federal process, finish the technical analysis within the next couple of months and have recommendations for the current administration… After that the engineers will start the design and permitting process, then construction.”
Optimistically Helmer said it could start about year-and-a-half from now.
Councilman Jack Fisher said he recently went on a tour of the valley and he couldn’t believe what he saw. “I was blown away. We live in such a wonderful country …what is allowed to happen, the trash that collects there blows my mind. The EPA has to understand there has been gross negligence on the part of the city of San Diego, the State of California and the federal government. It’s time for things to change,” he said.
Fisher pointed out how the pollution is affecting the Navy and tourism up and down the coast. He would like to see a reclamation program for water to be used in San Diego county.
When asked which project or projects Helmer would like to see implemented, he said the first project would be the best, but every one should be implemented in some way.
It was announced that the next meeting with the EPA is Feb. 25. Mayor Serge Dedina recommenced to staff to write a letter to the state and county to declare a state of emergency, possibly a national security emergency declaration to the federal government. He also pointed out the matter of air pollution problem due to fecal and toxic matter in the air in the city.
In other business:
Appointments of boards vacancies were announced. Design Review Board: Miguel Beltran, Chelsea Grace and Lance Rogers, with terms expiring Dec. 31, 2024. Tidelands Advisory Committee: Joe Ellis, Tiffany Lavan, and John Keating with two terms which expire Dec. 31, 2024 and one term on Dec. 31, 2022.
During the COVID update Assistant City Manager Erika Cortez Martinez announced that the vaccination center will be moved to Mar Vista High School at 505 Elm Avenue. Vaccinators and volunteers are needed and anyone interested can log on to www.healthcarevolunteers.ca.gov.
The next city council meeting will be held via teleconference on Feb. 17 at 5 p.m. For more information log on www.imperialbeachca.gov.