In his final actions on legislation passed this session, California Governor Gavin Newsom on Oct. 1 signed into law Senator Ben Hueso’s (D-San Diego) bill requiring the California Environmental Protection Agency to create a Watershed Action Plan for the Tijuana River Valley.

SB 1301 is the next step in continued efforts to reduce exposure to dangerous pathogens, limit beach closures, and address water quality issues. In 2016, Sen. Hueso authored SB 507, which authorized San Diego County to conduct a needs and assessment report on the Tijuana River Valley. That report was recently released and includes a comprehensive study identifying 27 projects that will greatly reduce impacts to the Tijuana River Valley from transboundary flows.

The report concluded that, to solve this problem, a diverter that can capture 163 million gallons of raw sewage per day will be required. This will essentially stop the pollution after almost 40 years. This diverter has a price tag of around $408 million. The USMCA included a $300 million allocation for the Tijuana River Valley, but $108 million is still needed to fund the project.

“Anything short of this project is simply a piecemeal solution and, in order to get the remaining funding, we need all stakeholders to chip in,” said Sen. Hueso. “The best way to accomplish this is to form this watershed action plan.”

Due to the binational nature of the watershed, consistent and effective coordination between agencies of both countries is required. This coordination is complicated by the differing levels of government involvement as well as multi-agency work required to address the transboundary flows. SB 1301 seeks to address this by creating a framework to work with the government of Mexico and the US federal government to improve the overall health of the Tijuana River Watershed.

The population of the city of Tijuana has greatly increased and, due to this, the sewage runoffs have also increased. SB 1301 will create a mitigation program on both sides of the border that will ensure that, as the city of Tijuana continues to grow, the necessary measures will be taken in order to prevent the runoff.

“This watershed action plan will be California’s commitment to create a robust and comprehensive strategy to revitalize the Tijuana River Watershed,” said Sen. Hueso.

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