Friday, May 24, 2024

The Tijuana Sewage Solution is FINALLY Funded

Letters to the Editor submitted to The Coronado Times are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the publisher, editors or writers of this publication. Submit letters to [email protected].

Submitted by Richard Bailey

The cross-border sewage issue should have been solved years ago, but it took local leadership and a committed bipartisan effort with our colleagues across the bridge to make this issue a priority for the federal government.

Last week, Congress included $156 million in additional funding as part of the International Boundary and Water Commission’s (IBWC) construction budget to expand the South Bay International Wastewater Treatment Plant.

This latest update is the culmination of a bipartisan, regional effort over the past seven years led by Coronado and Imperial Beach to raise awareness of this issue to our federal representatives, identify a solution, and secure the necessary funding.

Beginning in 2017, the Coronado City Council unanimously agreed to form a cross-border sewage subcommittee; the subcommittee members were former Councilmember Whitney Benzian and myself. The subcommittee took a diplomatic approach to engage with the U.S. State Department, the IBWC, and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Through these early meetings, the EPA agreed to analyze the issue to determine the causes of the cross-border pollution and quantify its impacts.

In 2018, the EPA released its assessment and a high-level plan to reduce the number of cross-border sewage flow days by about 90%. The following year, the entire South Bay region, including former County Supervisor Greg Cox, began lobbying Congress to appropriate funding to start work on the plan.

In 2020, under the Trump Administration, the USMCA trade agreement included $300 million as a downpayment towards the total project cost of $600+ million.

After the pandemic initially delayed progress, the EPA began its environmental review process of the detailed plans. The process finished in 2022 and was then subject to public review. Around this time, Mexico announced that it had appropriated funds to fix infrastructure on its side of the international border.

In 2023, Councilmember John Duncan joined the City’s cross-border sewage committee. Later that year, the International Boundary and Water Commission was authorized to release the projects for bid. Qualified contractors submitted several bids, which are currently being reviewed.

Earlier this year, Councilmember Duncan and I made multiple trips to Washington, D.C., to advocate the national importance of solving this issue to members of Congress of both parties in both chambers.

This effort helped forge a bipartisan Congressional coalition led by Congressman Scott Peters of San Diego and Congressman Dan Crenshaw of Houston that lobbied the leadership of their respective political parties.

In addition to increased funding, Congressman Darrell Issa of San Diego pushed for accountability measures for the IBWC to ensure the tax dollars are spent effectively to solve the cross-border pollution issue once and for all.

By including $156 million as part of the budget, instead of a one-off spending bill, the precedent and expectation is that Congress will continue to fund the project through the ordinary budget process until the project’s completion. A groundbreaking is expected later this year.

Thank you to everyone who called, wrote, and protested for clean water for the South Bay.  It has been a team effort the entire way, and I could not be more proud of our entire community for their advocacy over the years.

Richard Bailey
Mayor, City of Coronado


Editor’s Note: For over 100 articles with additional information and history on the Tijuana sewage issue, click here.

Managing Editor
Managing Editor
Originally from upstate New York, Dani Schwartz has lived in Coronado since 1996. She is happy to call Coronado home and to have raised her children here. In her free time she enjoys reading, exercising, trying new restaurants, and just walking her dog around the "island." Have news to share? Send tips or story ideas to: [email protected]

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