Waves not walls: border pollution solutions

by Serge Dedina

he Tijuana River, a sewage-laden biological weapon of mass destruction, is the biggest threat to public health in both California and Baja California. Filled with raw sewage, toxic chemicals, and thousands of tons of horse and cow manure (illegally dumped in the river by stable owners and ranchers on the US side of the border), public officials in the United States and Mexico have failed to prevent the river's foul-smelling water from reaching the beaches of Tijuana, Imperial Beach and Coronado.

    Clearly, it is time for a new approach to fixing the border sewage crisis that focuses on a comprehensive solution and includes the following components:

  • Improve and expand the existing municipal sewage collection system in Tijuana including the development of 20 small modular sewage treatment plants to serve large colonias.
  • Develop a nonprofit municipal and housing development corporation in Tijuana to assist neighborhood associations and families improve their housing stock and infrastructure needs.
  • Protect the existing open space of the Tecate and Tijuana Rivers to provide open and recreational space for Tijuana families and watershed protection for the municipal water system of Tijuana.
  • Carry out an ambitious urban reforestation project to bring back natural vegetation to the barren canyons and hillsides of Tijuana (the International Community Foundation and the Southwest Wetlands Association have initiated a pilot project in Los Laureles Canyon).
  • Dismantle the concrete Tijuana River flood control channel and replace it with a greenbelt, recreational corridor and flood control zone that connects eastern Tijuana with the Pacific Ocean and becomes the new economic and recreational heart of Tijuana.
  • Fully restore the natural habitats and parks of the Tijuana River Valley on the US side of the border and stop the contamination from eliminate heavily polluting cattle ranches and horse stables.
  • Abandon plans for the Tijuana Triple Border Wall, and replace the existing single border fence with a new single border barrier so that the Tijuana River Valley is transformed into an international peace park instead of a cold-war-style DMZ.

    All of these initiatives should cost about $500 million total, or about $125 per person for each of the estimated four million people in the San Diego-Tijuana region. Is this too much to pay to protect this important a resource?

    Adapted from “Border Pollution Solutions,” Voice of San Diego. Serge Dedina is the Executive Director of Wildcoast and a lifelong resident of Imperial Beach. He is the author of Saving the Gray Whale and can be reached at sdedina@wildcoast.net.