The U.S. Conference of Mayors joined Coronado and San Diego in calling for increased federal funding to tackle Mexico river pollution that plagues San Diego County beaches and other communities along the southern U.S. border.
Coronado Mayor Richard Bailey co-wrote a resolution with San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer and made presentations to win its adoption by the Mayors’ Water Council, Internal Affairs Committee, Environmental Committee and then today at a plenary session.
The Conference is the official nonpartisan organization of cities with populations over 30,000; resolutions passed by the group will be forwarded to President Trump and Congress. A copy of the resolution as adopted follows.
“Communities all along the border are dealing with cross-border pollution,” Bailey said. “We want to raise national awareness of the health and environmental problems it poses and generate backing for long-term solutions. I am grateful for the support of all the mayors and I want to especially thank San Diego’s Mayor Faulconer for co-sponsoring the resolution and Imperial Beach Mayor Serge Dedina for helping defend the resolution in the committee process.
“Our strategy here parallels the efforts of the County of San Diego and County Supervisor Greg Cox to pass a similar resolution through the National Association of Counties. As a regional coalition we are continuing to push for solutions from every angle. Winning the support of national organizations like the U.S. Conference of Mayors makes it more likely our federal representatives will take action on this issue.”
The resolution seeks funding for the U.S.-Mexico Border Water Infrastructure Program (BWIP), part of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency that funds the planning, design, and construction of high priority water and wastewater infrastructure projects along the U.S.- Mexico border.
Since 2018, the City of Coronado has lobbied federal lawmakers and agency leaders to fund sustainable solutions to the flow of sewage in the Tijuana River Valley, which has forced beach closures in San Diego County. The coalition-based approach has resulted in millions of dollars for treatment plant and collection system improvements in Mexico and the United States.
Last month, the EPA held a stakeholder meeting in Coronado at the City’s request to outline and prioritize projects that would benefit from $30 million in proposed federal funding for the 2020 fiscal year.
The U.S. Conference of Mayors, which represents 1,408 cities, held its 87th annual meeting in Honolulu, Hawaii, from June 28 to July 1.
Cross-border Sewage Solutions Resolution:
In Support of Increased Funding for the U.S.-Mexico Border Water Infrastructure Program (BWIP)
Whereas, several rivers on the southern border of the United States, including the Tijuana, New and San Pedro rivers, either originate in or run through Mexico and flow northward into the United States; and
Whereas, the Rio Grande forms part of the border between the United States and Mexico and receives flows from the Conchos, Salado and San Juan rivers each originating in Mexico; and
Whereas, transboundary water flows are a major source of sewage, trash, chemical, heavy metals and other toxins along the southern border; and
Whereas, these transboundary flows threaten the health of U.S. Citizens, harm important estuarine land and water of international significance, force closure of beaches, compromise border security and directly affect U.S. military readiness at nearby installations; and
Whereas, according to the U.S. Border Patrol union, in 2017, over 80 border agents suffered contamination, injury and illness due to the transboundary runoff, and
Whereas, non-existent and/or degrading infrastructure in the border zone is posing a significant risk to the public health and safety of residents and the environment on both sides of the border, and placing the economic stress on cities that are struggling to mitigate the negative impacts of pollution; and
Whereas, for example, a significant amount of untreated sewage, sediment, and trash have been entering the Tijuana River Watershed (75 percent of which is within Mexico) and flowing into southern California’s coastal waterways since the 1930s; and
Whereas, in February 2017, an estimated 143 million gallons of raw sewage flowed into the Tijuana River and ran downstream into the Pacific Ocean, affecting U. S. Navy SEAL training operations in the ocean of Imperial Beach and Border Patrol operations in the Tijuana River Valley, and also resulting in the closure of a number of beaches along the Pacific coastline; and
Whereas, the 1944 treaty between the United Sates and Mexico regarding Utilization of Waters of the Colorado and Tijuana Rivers and of the Rio Grande allocates flows on trans-border rivers between Mexico and the United States, and provides that the nations, through their respective sections of the International Boundary Water Commission shall give control of sanitation in cross border flows the highest priority; and
Whereas, in 1993, the Untied States and Mexico entered into the Agreement Between the Government of the United States of American and the Government of the United Mexican States Concerning the Establishment of a North American Development Bank which created the North American Development Bank (NADB) to certify and fund environmental infrastructure projects in border-area communities; and
Whereas, Congress authorized funding under the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Safe Drinking Water Act and the state and Tribal Assistance Grants (STAG) program for the U.S.-Mexico Border Water Infrastructure Program (BWIP) in 1996 to provide grants for high -priority water, wastewater and stormwater infrastructure projects within 100 kilometers of the southern border; and
Whereas, the EPA administers the STAG and BWIP programs, and coordinates with NADB to allocate BWIP grant funds to projects in the border zone; and
Whereas, since its inception, the BWIP program has provided funding for projects in California, Arizona, New Mexico and Texas that would not have been constructed without the grant program; and
Whereas the BWIP program was initially funded at $100 million per year, but over the last 20 years, has been continuously reduced to its current level of $10 million; and
Whereas, in its FY 2020 Budget Request, the Administration proposed to eliminate the BWIP program, and
Whereas, EPA officials from Region 6 and 9 identified a multitude of BWIP-eligible projects along the southern border totaling over $300 million; and
Whereas, without federal partnership through the BWIP program, cities in the border zone are left with limited resources to address international pollution issues and limited legal remedies to address the problem.
Now, therefore, be it resolved that the U.S. conference of Mayors supports increased funding for the BWIP program that is necessary for finding long-term solutions to address discharges of untreated sewage and excessive sediment and trash-laden transboundary flows originating from Mexico that result in significant health, environmental, and safety concerns in communities along the souther border of the United States.