SAN DIEGO (September 2, 2020) — Today, at an event with U.S. Ambassador to Mexico T.H. Christopher Landau, U.S. Border Patrol Chief Rodney Scott and Commissioner of the International Boundary and Water Commission (IBWC) Jayne Harkins at the U.S. Coast Guard San Diego Station, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Andrew Wheeler highlighted past, present, and future investments to help reduce transboundary Tijuana River pollution.
“EPA and its partners have laid the groundwork and made significant investments improving water quality in the Tijuana River basin to benefit public health and the environment, but there is more work to be done,” said EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler. “Today, we are pleased to announce two near-term projects that continues this momentum—and as we look forward to major investments under President Trump’s United States-Mexico-Canada (USMCA) Trade Agreement.”
“San Diego got two historic wins in the USMCA – a trade deal built for the 21st century and a fix for the environmental crisis in the Tijuana River Valley,” said San Diego Mayor Kevin L. Faulconer. “We’ve advocated long and hard for this across party lines and this $300 million investment by the EPA marks a new chapter for the San Diego-Tijuana megaregion with improved quality of life for so many residents on both sides of the border.”
“EPA is delivering in concrete ways for the citizens of the San Diego area, who have faced complex water pollution issues for years,” said EPA Pacific Southwest Regional Administrator John Busterud. “In close collaboration with our partners at the IBWC and the City of San Diego, we will make progress on short-term solutions for the communities of this region.”
To expeditiously increase treatment of Tijuana river flows by 10 million gallons per day, EPA will enter into a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with IBWC to divert additional water for treatment at the IBWC International Treatment Plant. EPA will fund the design and construction of the diversion. Additionally, EPA is partnering with the City of San Diego to rapidly develop and deploy a permanent solution to better control sediment and trash in Smuggler’s Gulch—just north of the U.S. – Mexico border. In addition to capturing sediment and trash that would otherwise flow into the Pacific Ocean, this project will help reducing flooding risk for the community. Funding for these near-term projects will be provided by the agency’s Border Water Infrastructure Program.
Through these actions, EPA and its partners are working to better protect public health and the environment from poor water quality that has negatively affected southern California communities.
“Today, we begin to turn the tide in our battle against sewage pollution. The time for talk is over. The time for action is here. I am happy to see that we are now moving forward with actual solutions and projects to address this problem,” said San Diego County Board of Supervisors Chairman Greg Cox.
“The City of Imperial Beach is grateful to the EPA, especially Administrator Andrew Wheeler, as well as all of our federal, state and local partners for working collaboratively to identify short and long-term fixes that will help to make sure that our kids and families can enjoy our beautiful beaches year-round,” said Imperial Beach Mayor Serge Dedina.
“This announcement is a major milestone that will greatly benefit the San Diego area. We appreciate the ongoing regional collaboration and leadership from the EPA,” said City of Coronado Mayor Richard Bailey.
These near-term projects make important progress and build on the groundwork and investments that EPA and its partners have already made to improve water quality near the border. For example, this month, the Poniente Collector project was completed, using $3.9 million in EPA funding to keep 4.5 million gallons of sewage per day from entering the Tijuana River. EPA has also allocated $6 million to co-fund improvements to an existing Tijuana River diversion to reduce the flow of transboundary pollution.
For more information on U.S.-Mexico Border water quality, visit https://www.epa.gov/usmexicoborder.
In 2019, the U.S.–Mexico–Canada Agreement (USMCA) was finalized to update and replace the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). With entry into force on July 1, 2020, and with combined trilateral trade flows of over $1.2 trillion, USMCA creates the largest free trade area in the world outside of the European Union. The USMCA implementing legislation Section 821 directs EPA to address polluted transboundary flows in the Tijuana River Watershed and the legislation included an appropriation of $300 million for infrastructure projects in connection with wastewater facilities in the area of the United States–Mexico Border. To implement the provisions of the USMCA, EPA will convene an Interagency Consultation Group comprised of senior-level members from key U.S. federal, state, and local agencies, as listed in the USMCA legislation. EPA will also manage a binational technical expert consultation process to ensure infrastructure options are informed by the best available technical and scientific information.