The issue of the flow of sewage from Mexico into Imperial Beach, Coronado and beyond, and funding for infrastructure was brought all the way to Washington D.C. and the White House last Monday, Sept. 23 and Tuesday, Sept. 24 with a delegation of local leaders. San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer, Imperial Beach Mayor Serge Dedina, Coronado Mayor Richard Bailey, County Supervisor Greg Cox and Port of San Diego Chairman Garry Bonelli attended a number of meetings with high level officials to ask for funding for infrastructure and finally solve the constant problem of sewage spills.
“We had a great representation with a united front of mayors, myself and Gary [Bonelli]. We had an opportunity to speak on issues dealing with public health, border patrol, and the military, setting the stage for specific requirement and getting the present administration to fund the Tijuana River Valley [infrastructure]. Our official ask is for $404 million for construction of a diversion and treatment facility,” said Cox in a phone call from Washington D.C on Tuesday morning.
This request was in conjunction with two bills that have been introduced recently - HR 3895 by Congressman Juan Vargas for $1.5 billion called the North American Development Bank’s Pollution Solution Act and HR 4039 by Congressman Mike Levin for $150 million per year for 5 years for border infrastructure.
The contingent had meetings with William Crozer, Deputy Director, White House Office of Intergovernmental Affairs; Brian McCormack, Associate Director for Natural Resources, Energy and Science with the Office of Management and Budget; Chad McIntosh, Assistant Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency’s Office of International and Tribal Affairs; and Mary Neumayr, Chairwoman of the Council on Environmental Quality. The representatives of San Diego had never met with officials at this level before.
The group also met with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi. “We made a good pitch. We didn’t expect a check today. What we ask for is reasonable,” said Cox.
Cox especially pointed out the health problems the sewage poses on the military at REAM Field and the Navy Campus as well as the Border Patrol personnel. “The recruits going through BUDS program can’t compete because they can’t go through the training [if they are sick],” said Cox.
Cox said having Bonelli present at the meetings was important since he spent 45 years in the U.S. Navy, both active and reserve, and was involved in the Navy Campus’s creation.
Imperial Beach Mayor Serge Dedina has been an active proponent of solving the sewage problems that plague Imperial Beach. “We’re very happy to gave gone to the White House to advocate for infrastructure that would’ve the most impact on beach closures,” said Dedina. “The White House was very receptive and very positive. We had a good response for the case I made for Imperial Beach.”
This meeting comes on the heels of the North American Development Bank and Environmental Protection Agency’s feasibility study released last month.
To follow up from this visit, there will be an invitation to White House officials to attend the next EPA regional stakeholders meeting in October in San Diego. This will provide them with an opportunity to tour the Tijuana River Valley and they will be able to see firsthand the impacts of this sewage problem.
Coronado Mayor Richard Bailey could not be reached for comment by press time.