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The Mayor’s Corner

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Posted: Friday, January 3, 2020 12:51 pm

The recent announcement of the inclusion of $325 million in the federal budget to build sewage diversion infrastructure in the Tijuana River Valley (on the U.S. side of the border) to stop raw sewage and toxic waste from reaching our shoreline is a major milestone in our Clean Beach campaign. That unified team effort that has included: residents and organizations from Imperial Beach and around the region; the San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce; the cities of Imperial Beach, Coronado, San Diego, and Chula Vista; the Port of San Diego (thanks especially to Imperial Beach Port Commissioner Dan Malcolm); County of San Diego Supervisor Greg Cox; State of California (especially Governor Gavin Newsom, Lt. Governor Eleni Kounalakis, Assemblymember Todd Gloria, and Senator Ben Hueso), U.S. EPA (I talked to Mike Stoker, the EPA Region 9 Regional Administrator on Christmas Eve and he was elated about the news); and especially our San Diego County congressional representatives Juan Vargas, Scott Peters, Mike Levin and Susan Davis; and Senators Diane Feinstein and Kamala Harris. This was a non-partisan, non-political effort in which everyone rallied around a common objective and worked together to achieve it.

I want to especially thank fellow Imperial Beach Councilmembers Paloma Aguirre, Bobby Patton, Ed Spriggs and Mark West who never wavered in this effort (kudos also goes to former Councilmember Lori Bragg who was also a strong clean beach champion while in office). They have been determined, focussed and committed to fixing this unacceptable environmental and public health crisis. Likewise City of Imperial Beach staff under the leadership of City Manager Andy Hall have been incredibly effective and professional advocates for clean beaches on both sides of the border.

Back in April I attended a meeting with the Undersecretary of Mexico’s Foreign Service together with Councilmember Paloma Aguirre and representatives from our lobbying firm Monarch Global Strategies. In that meeting, Councilmember Aguirre and I, along with the Monarch team, made it clear to Mexican officials that the sewage crisis was intolerable. We stated that the sewage issue would most likely would become a main talking point for U.S. congressional representatives who wanted to make sure that the U.S.M.C.A. (or updated NAFTA free trade agreement between the U.S., Canada, and Mexico) would not be ratified unless there were specific funding provisions to fund Tijuana River sewage infrastructure. That is exactly what happened.

At that Mexico City meeting, our message was clear--Mexico needs to spend its own money on fixing Tijuana’s collapsing sewage system. That same point was relayed directly to Mexican President Manuel Lopez Obrador on behalf of the City of Imperial Beach via Monarch’s James Jones, a former U.S. Congressman and Ambassador to Mexico, on three different occasions. Those meetings and our pressure on Mexico on this issue resulted in the allocation of up to $30 million dollars by Mexican federal authorities (Mexico needs to do much much more). That does not include the $325 million in federal funds allocated on our side of the border thanks to our Congressional delegation and Senators Feinstein and Harris.

Our campaign is far from over. The recent rains and endless sewage spills and beach closures have only highlighted the shocking breakdown of Tijuana’s antiquated sewage treatment system, the need to fast-track a sewage diversion system on our side of the border and build water re-use facilities in Tijuana (our neighbor to the south is facing a Cape Town like water crisis and can’t afford to discharge sewage onto our beaches that it could be utilizing for agriculture and industrial purposes). We can’t wait any longer. Our team is committed to going the distance to make sure no one makes any more excuses about beach pollution and why they can’t fix the problem. In 2020, we will expect funds to be actually spent to fix this issue. Our Clean Beach team will be monitoring officials on both sides of the border to hold them accountable for actually making improvements.

Finally, thanks to all of you who continually provide us with encouragement and support. This has been a hard and long effort, but you never doubted our collective cause and the need to move forward and push officials at the highest levels in Mexico and the U.S. I have never been more proud of Imperial Beach and our community. We showed that by working together in a collaborative, collegial, and strategic effort, we can achieve anything. So in 2020, let’s apply these same principles of excellence and leadership to doing even more to improve the quality of life for every resident and every neighborhood throughout Imperial Beach.

Happy New Year!

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