Rep. Peters Leads Request to House Leadership for $310 Million in Emergency Funding to Confront Tijuana Border Pollution
September 6, 2023
Washington, DC – Today, Representative Scott Peters (CA-50) led a request by members of the San Diego Congressional delegation to House leadership for $310 million in new funding from an upcoming emergency supplemental bill to tackle dangerous cross-border wastewater pollution in the Tijuana River Valley. Last week, Senators Padilla (D-CA) and Feinstein (D-CA) made a similar appeal to Senate leadership. The request announced by Peters today is a companion to that request.
In their letter addressed to Speaker McCarthy (R-CA-20), Leader Jeffries (D-NY-8), Appropriations Committee Chairwoman Granger (R-TX-12), and Ranking Member DeLauro (D-CT-3), the San Diego members state, “We write to urgently request $310 million for the South Bay International Wastewater Treatment Plant (SBIWTP) in the upcoming emergency supplemental. Hurricane Hilary dramatically increased the flow of untreated wastewater from the Tijuana River Valley through SBIWTP and onto San Diego’s coastline and into coastal waters. In fact, last week the treatment plant completely failed causing raw sewage to rush onto streets and to seep into canyons and neighborhoods in San Diego County.”
The members conclude their letter, “Years of underinvestment have left SBIWTP in dire need of emergency repairs and expansion to treat increased flows resulting from extreme weather events, such as Hurricane Hilary, and population growth in the region. Securing emergency funding is crucial to rehabilitate and expand the plant in order to protect public health and the environment, and to stop the economic damage cross-border sewage flows have had on our communities for far too long.”
Representative Peters was joined on the letter by Representatives Juan Vargas (CA-52), Sara Jacobs (CA-51), and Mike Levin (CA-49) in this request.
Last week, Rep. Peters thanked California Governor Gavin Newsom and State Senate Pro Tem Toni Atkins for adding their voices to call for action from the federal government. The Governor announced on Friday that the Administration had committed to him to finally give this problem the urgent attention it warrants.
Full text of the letters is available here and below:
Dear Speaker McCarthy, Leader Jeffries, Chairman Granger, and Ranking Member DeLauro:
We write to urgently request $310 million for the South Bay International Wastewater Treatment Plant (SBIWTP) in the upcoming emergency supplemental. Hurricane Hilary has dramatically increased the flow of untreated wastewater from the Tijuana River Valley through SBIWTP and onto San Diego’s coastline and into coastal waters. In fact, just this week the treatment plant completely failed causing raw sewage to rush onto streets and to seep into canyons and neighborhoods in San Diego County. This sewage pollutes our seas, causes illness, damages the local and state economy, and complicates our national and homeland security and the situation today is worse than it ever has been.
In 2021, the San Diego Congressional delegation secured $300 million in the United States- Mexico-Canada Agreement which was supposed to fund an expansion of the SBIWTP from 25 million gallons per day (mgd) to 50 mgd. However, in June of this year we learned that the SBIWTP is in such dire shape that significantly more funding is needed to rehabilitate the plant before the U.S. International Boundary and Water Commission (IBWC) can expand it. These new costs jeopardize the United States’ ability to fulfill its international obligations under the treaty known as Minute 328.
Heavy rains, like the ones caused by Hurricane Hilary, cause massive transboundary wastewater to flow into Southern California beaches. The beaches of Imperial Beach and Coronado offer the nearest and often most affordable access for many of San Diego’s more disadvantaged communities. However, these beaches – their beaches -- have been closed extensively for two summers in a row due to dangerous contamination. This is a serious public health threat. Excess flows, filled with toxins, dry up on the marshlands and on the sand. The winds pick up this bacteria-filled sediment and carry into these communities, exposing residents to public health hazards. Studies conducted by the Scripps Institute of Oceanography show that sprays from contaminated waves also produce aerosol pollutants.
Additionally, The US Naval Special Warfare Command, which trains in Coronado, is often forced to move ocean training events to different locations in Southern California to ensure our warfighters are not sickened due to training in polluted waters. Similarly, federal Homeland Security agents assigned to the region have identified extensive hazards they confront when patrolling in Tijuana River Valley and the detrimental effect these conditions have on their health. An inability to train for military operations or patrol our nation’s border represents an unacceptable risk to our national security.
Years of underinvestment have left SBIWTP in dire need of emergency repairs and expansion to treat increased flows resulting from extreme weather events, such as Hurricane Hilary, and population growth in the region. Securing emergency funding is crucial to rehabilitate and expand the plant in order to protect public health and the environment, and to stop the economic damage cross-border sewage flows have had on our communities for far too long.
Thank you for your consideration of this request.
Last week, Rep. Peters led two letters to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) and to OMB and the State Department, respectively, calling for urgent additional funding to confront this crisis. Last month, members of the San Diego congressional delegation requested the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) assist with directing environmental justice funds from the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA) and the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) to help stop the flow of pollutants and urged Secretary of State Antony Blinken to tour the broken plant. Earlier in July, they sent a letter to President Biden and submitted an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for Fiscal Year 2024 calling on the administration to declare this crisis a federal emergency. In June, Rep. Peters led a letter with other members of the San Diego Congressional delegation to the governor of Baja California urging accountability for the Mexican government’s commitments to build wastewater treatment infrastructure. In previous years, Peters along with colleagues, has secured funding, introduced legislation, called for investigations, and arranged a visit by EPA Administrator Regan in response to the wastewater contamination crisis. Rep. Peters plans to leave no stone unturned and continue this work with additional demands for funding through the congressional appropriations process and emergency supplemental funding in the coming days.