By Miriam Raftery
June 26, 2017 (San Diego) – State Senator Ben Hueso (D-San Diego) has introduced Senate Bill 507 to help protect the Tijuana River Valley in the wake of repeated severe sewage spills from Mexico, including a spill in February that dumped an estimated 28 to 100 million gallons of raw sewage into the valley.
The bill does not create a new fund, but instead would allow money already allocated to the County of San Diego for land acquisition to be used to protect and restore lands it already owns in the Tijuana River Valley.
The money is from a $2.1 million settlement for lands seized through eminent domain by the federal government.
Hueso says the Tijuana River Valley is an environmental jewel with a natural floodplain, wetland and riparian areas. But the pollution from Mexico has become so severe that it’s forced closure of San Diego beaches and a sulfuric stench has wafted miles away.
Hueso’s legislation would amend the Budget act to allow part of the settlement money to be spent on development, rehabilitation, protection and restoration of the Tijuana River Valley, including studies of natural lands and parks, according to an analysis by the State Senate Natural Resources and Water Committee.
The measure passed the committee unanimously – including yes votes by San Diego Senators Toni Atkins and Ben Hueso. It now goes to the Appropriations Committee for consideration.
San Diego’s federal legislators have also sought to get help to clean up and prevent Mexican sewage spills in the Valley. Congressmen Juan Vargas and Duncan Hunter have sent letters to key federal officials on the matter. Congressman Hunter cited concerns over health risks to Navy Seals who train in the Tijuana River Valley and asked the State Department and the Environmental Protection Agency to take action. The latter is ironic, since Hunter earlier voted for bill that would have eliminated the Environmental Protection Agency that he now seeks help from for a serious environmental problem in his region.