Port of San Diego Calls for Action on Cross-Border Pollution

The waters off Imperial Beach, administered by the Port of San Diego, are frequently affected by pollution from the Tijuana River Valley (file image)

Published Jan 3, 2020 11:54 PM by The Maritime Executive

Last month, the Port of San Diego joined with other regional agencies in calling on the U.S. federal government to deal with cross-border sewage flows in the Tijuana River Valley. Tijuana's sewage system has capacity limitations, and sewage spills routinely force beach closures in areas of San Diego. The port is the state-designated trustee for Imperial Beach, including the ocean waters just off the pier, an area that is frequently affected by polluted water from the river.

The port's requests include funding for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to carry out previously-identified capital projects; restoring the Tijuana River Valley environment; and directing the EPA and the International Boundary and Water Commission to cooperate and move quickly on projects. The EPA's project goals include diversion system improvements on both sides of the border, which would either send contaminated water into the ocean or to the South Bay International Wastewater Treatment Plant. 

The resolution asks federal leaders to address the underlying causes of sewage, sediment and trash that have contaminated San Diego's land and waterways for decades. It has also recently been adopted by the State Lands Commission, the County of San Diego, the San Diego Regional Water Quality Control Board, the cities of Chula Vista and Imperial Beach.

“The Port of San Diego requires everyone on tidelands property to comply with all applicable federal, state, and local environmental laws, [and] that includes the Clean Water Act. The federal government is not exempt from its own law. It should be leading by example,” said Commissioner Dan Malcolm, Imperial Beach’s representative on the Port of San Diego Board of Port Commissioner. “We look forward to hearing from the responsible federal agencies on when they will finally implement the projects we’ve identified to solve this crisis for the health and safety of our communities.”

Regional stakeholders have met frequently with the U.S. EPA since June when the agency released their “Tijuana River Valley Project Goals,” a list of capital projects identified to end the public health, environmental, and safety issues caused by the pollution in the Tijuana River Valley. They’ve also advocated in unison in Washington D.C. for movement on the projects. 

“This resolution represents a unanimous call to action . . .for how the federal government should address the decades-old environmental catastrophe that compromises the health and safety of the CBP agents, U.S. Navy SEALs, our local coastal economies, and the everyday beachgoers on both sides of the border. The time to act is now," said Coronado Mayor Richard Bailey in a statement. Coronado is the home of the Navy SEALs' West Coast headquarters.