Friday, September 29, 2023

Cross Border Sewage Discussion Comes Out into the Open

As many residents of both Imperial Beach and Coronado had hoped, the Coronado City Council did discuss the ongoing border sewage issue that is the topic of pending litigation by the city of Imperial Beach against the International Boundary and Water Commission (IBWC) in closed session yesterday. While the topic was not on the agenda, we reported yesterday that if it was to be discussed, it would be done in closed session. And, if it were discussed in closed session, according to Mayor Richard Bailey, any decision to take action would be made public in some forum.

True to his word, Mayor Bailey posted an update on social media yesterday evening announcing that the City Council would discuss in open session “in the near future” issues related to the sewage problem, including “draft[ing] a participation agreement between Coronado and Imperial Beach to effect changes to the IBWC-owned San Ysidro sewage treatment plant.”

Mayor Bailey’s statement stopped far short of what activists from the Surfrider Foundation and the South Bay Clean Water Movement as well as other individual citizens demanded – that Coronado should join Imperial Beach in its impending litigation. Instead, it focused on what could be seen as a “baby-step” in discussing the drafting of a cooperation agreement.

Why would the City Council draft a participation agreement with Imperial Beach rather than simply join the impending litigation? One apparent concern of the City Council is that of funding. Presuming that the planned Imperial Beach litigation were successful, any fix that the courts might order would still need to be funded from some source. As Mayor Bailey’s statement read: “Almost any changes to the IBWC-owned San Ysidro sewage treatment plant as a result of a successful litigation or settlement will require funding and approvals from a variety of federal and state agencies. Congress will also need to be involved to drive the federal agencies and to pass any needed legislation enabling changes.”

So, rather than simply join Imperial Beach in its planned suit, the City Council appears to be considering how likely it is that a “fix” – even if court ordered – would being funded and, perhaps, is considering the possibility of pursuing such funding in parallel with legal action.

Yesterday’s first public speaker in favor of Coronado joining with Imperial Beach was local activist Daron Case (video below). He began his comments with a query: “Can you guys disclose whether you’ve made any progress or any activity on the IBWC litigation in closed session?” Now that he has his answer, how does he feel about the direction that Coronado is taking? When asked, Case seemed underwhelmed by the City’s approach. He said: “At this time, my focus remains the lawsuit … If [this] approach is Coronado’s best answer to solving the problem, I’m confident we’ll all be swimming in sewage for many years to come.”

Gabriela Torres, the Policy Coordinator for the Surfrider Foundation’s No Border Sewage Program, who also spoke before the City Council yesterday offered a somewhat more positive view: “My reaction is, it’s not the decision we were expecting. What Surfrider is asking for is more direct support for this lawsuit.  It doesn’t go far enough.  But, I am content that they are expressing a willingness to do more.”

Luan Troxel
Luan Troxel
Luan’s background spans a range of industries from academia to management consulting to investment banking. Along the way, she earned an undergraduate degree in political science at Northwestern University, a PhD in the same field from the University of Michigan and an MBA from Columbia University. She has lived on both coasts and many states in between, as well as in Bulgaria and Germany. Have news to share? Send tips, story ideas or letters to the editor to [email protected]