Local leaders announced on Friday that they have secured $300 million dollars for the Border Water Infrastructure Project (BWIP) to solve the cross-border pollution problem from the Tijuana River Valley. The leaders met at Bayside Park in Chula Vista.
The group announced the initial deal in December. The funds were secured through the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (U.S.M.C.A) – which is a significant amount compared to years prior.
“In past appropriations, the BWIP program has received as little as $15 million dollars a year to provide border water infrastructure to the entire U.S.-Mexico border, and believe it or not, in the President’s fiscal year 2020 budget – no money was included for the BWIP program,“ said Rep. Mike Levin, D-Oceanside.
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The congressman added that securing this funding was an “historic accomplishment” but that “our work is far from over.”
The money will go toward environmental infrastructure improvements in the United States, according to Congresswoman Susan Davis, D-San Diego.
“We know about the health concerns that beachgoers, lifeguards and Border Patrol agents face from exposure from pollution but our Navy personnel and especially our SEALs risk training in contaminated waters and the Navy can’t be forced to cancel training operations to avoid exposure to Navy personnel,” said Congresswoman Susan Davis, D-San Diego.
Congressman Juan Vargas (D-San Diego) added that the group of local leaders will need to make sure the newly secured funding is used correctly. Vargas also cited that funds in the North American Development Bank (NADB) were supposed to go toward border projects to help with environmental issues but added that the group changed the law “to address more of the wastewater.”
“In February 2017, we experienced the largest spill we have seen in decades. In a matter of days, a ruptured pipe in Tijuana sent as much as a million gallons of sewage into the Pacific Ocean. It heavily polluted 25 miles of coast line and this is an ongoing problem,” said Congressman Scott Peters, D-San Diego.
Peters added that while the U.S. and Mexico funded an international wastewater treatment plant at the border 20 years ago – Tijuana has grown in population and the infrastructure hasn’t kept up.
“An average storm can result in overflows directly to the Tijuana river--dragging trash, sediment and sewage into the United States, causing San Diego beaches all the way from the southern border to Coronado Island to be closed constantly due to dangerous levels of pollution,” said Peters.
The issue of pollution at local San Diego beaches has been a problem for years, with some local organizations like The Surfrider Foundation and local cities suing over the sewage pollution issue.
Residents in the South Bay have been fighting for clean water at their beaches, including hosting a beach clean up in April. In January 2019, high surf pushed sewage contaminated water onto Imperial Beach streets.