The final paragraph of the Jan. 28, 2021 “The Mayors Corner “article stated, in the Imperial Beach Mayor’s mind, that the Federal Government had been delinquent or irresponsible in its fight against cross border sewage flows into the United States for the last four years. The Mayor’s mind must be somewhere else because nothing could be further from the truth.
The facts are, here at the border, that the federal government led by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), International Boundary Water Commission (IBWC)and the NAD Bank have in little more than three years carefully planned and implemented over $35 million U.S. dollars in repairs and upgrades to the Mexican sewage system that will capture dry (non-rain) event flows for the next 10 years. Once the plan is fully implemented, the result of these great efforts, if realized, would be that beach closure days in Imperial Beach will be reduced from 250 days in 2017 to 24 days per year.
The summary of the actions made by the Federal Government started over three years ago started in response to the public outcry of the “Great Tsunami” of sewage in 2017. This event, due to failures in the 50-year-old Mexican sewage collectors, allowed hundreds of millions of gallons of sewage to escape and flow into the United States and closed Imperial Beach coastline for over 250 days. This event triggered a call to action in the Federal Agencies who control the border. The mobilization effort did not start with a shoot, ready, aim, fire approach like so many other short cited and placid past attempts to solve the cross-border issue. In the middle of 2017, the EPA started to investigate the causes of the Mexican sewage failures and in May of 2018 held a preliminary meeting to present its findings. In August 2018 a 30% design progress meeting was held, in April 2019 a 90% design progress was presented.
With large rain approaching in the first week of December 2019, the project was ready to be started. Unfortunately, unknown to most citizens of Imperial Beach, drastic measures had to be taken to complete this series of infrastructure and pump upgrades in Mexico. Not unlike like placing a critically ill patient into a coma, to save the Tijuana River, it had to be put on life support. Starting in December of 2019 and until August of 2020, the Mexican pumps which normally send 50 million gallons of sewage per day over to the Pacific Ocean were shut off. In the preceding 9 months nearly 50 billion gallons of sewage would be allowed to flow into the United States from Mexico while the new pumps were installed. Along with the new pumps large electric generators were also installed so that in the event of a power outage in Tijuana, the pumps would continue to work 24/7.
In October/November the first people to notice the improvement in ocean water quality were the surfers in Imperial Beach. So, the outcome of these quick and decisive actions by Federal Government officials will offer better local ocean water quality for most of the year. Unfortunately, because of the enormous volume of water during rain events, these Mexican side infrastructure improvements will not work for rain events.
The comments and thoughts of the Mayor of Imperial Beach from the Jan. 28 Eagle & Times are inaccurate and shows how little he knows of simple engineering concepts and how the Tijuana River Valley should be restored to its natural ecology.
However, it does show us his view of his world, and that Serge Dedina cannot be trusted to make decisions concerning the use of public funds for infrastructure upgrades without full transparency and sound public review. He just does not have a track record of success in infrastructure projects or in representing the public good in tangible improvements to our South Bay environment.