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Borderline Wasteland

It is Paradise Lost-by-the-Sea. Milton's mouth of hell is the Tijuana River's mouth of pollution. California's southernmost waterway has become the River Styx.

Our El Niño rains have once again brought back the gurgling, churning river choked with tires, trash, dead animals and sewage. A concoction straight from Hades, the toxic stew courses through the Tijuana Estuary and out into the Pacific. Paradise trashed.

WildCoast/Costa Salvaje, Dr. Serge Dedina's visionary bi-national environmental coalition, is on the side of the angels. After years of finger pointing and recrimination among leaders and citizens of Tijuana and San Diego, WildCoast has made inroads building a bilingual, hands-across-the-border movement.

It is a slow journey, however, and Mother Earth is paying a heavy price. Border State Park is just one example of this devastation. A recent tire cleanup rounded up enough rubber to open a mid-sized shop.

San Diego has played a shameful role in the pollution of our beautiful oceans with its overmatched sewers and street run-off. Worse still is the Tijuana River which has, for years, been a snaking liquid dump. Heavy rains wash trash and sewage from Tijuana hillsides across the border and into the river, where it travels through the estuary to the sea.

Visiting Border Field State Park can be an overwhelmingly emotional experience. This is not going to change until a much-debated filtering system is built in the Tijuana River to clean water before it flows through Imperial Beach. For years politicians in Sacramento, Mexicali, Mexico City and Washington D.C. have paid lip service to a proposal by a group of entrepreneurs who call themselves Bajagua, but neither side will accept responsibility or put up the money to build it. The devil is in the details.

Both nations are at fault. For this problem to ever find a solution, an international contract should be signed between Mexico and the United States.

America should split the cost for the filtering system even if most of the pollutants come from Mexico. Estuary inhabitants are being placed in harm's way. Animals are in danger daily with the all the trash being dumped into the river.

Enter WildCoast on the proverbial white horse. Dedina, a bilingual Ph.D.-surfer who loves Mexico, represents the solution. Energized young people from both nations have already paid dividends and are working to save the whale breeding sanctuary Scanlins Lagoon. WildCoast is now diving into-figuratively, of course-the polluted waters of the Tijuana River. Rule #1 of WildCoast is "no finger pointing." Dedina and his crew focus on looking forward with a positive attitude and a willingness to work.

People travel to San Diego as a vacation spot and clean water should be a top priority to all businesses and community residents. Tourists do not come to San Diego to see signs on the beaches warning of potentially fatal toxins in the water.

Health clinics in Imperial Beach provide free hepatitis shots for surfers and swimmers due to the vile state of the beaches. That is noble, but sad.

Bob Dylan once said, "Get out of the way if you can't lend a hand." WildCoast is lending a hand and could use our help.

Hope and help could be the only things that can really fix the devastating state of the Tijuana River and its estuary. It is time to fix this very fixable problem--and quickly.

To volunteer at WildCoast/Costa Salvaje contact the organization at: WildCoast, 925 Seacoast Drive, Imperial Beach CA 91932. Phone: (619) 423-8665.

From the Southwestern Sun by Cody Yarbro