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The Latest from the EPA's Border 2020 Program & Tijuana River Valley Recovery Team

If anyone has ever said that the environmental issues plaguing the San Diego border region are too immense for us to tackle, they clearly have never been to a meeting of the US EPA’s Border 2020 Program’s Task Force and the Tijuana River Valley Recovery Team.

On Thursday, June 18th, members of our No Border Sewage (No B.S.) committee joined in on a 3-hour meeting hosted at the Tijuana River National Estuarine Research Reserve’s Visitor Center in Imperial Beach. The event was a coming-together of the U.S-Mexico Border Environmental Program’s (Border 2020) Tijuana River Watershed Task Force and the Tijuana River Valley Recovery Team, meant to unite the thought-leaders and trailblazers working daily to improve the health and vitality of the region.

So, the U.S. EPA’s Border 2020 Program. What is that exactly?

The Border 2020 Program is “an eight-year (2013-2020) binational effort designed to ‘protect the environment and public health in the U.S.-Mexico Border region, consistent with the principles of sustainable development.’” It brings together national, state and local officials, community stakeholders, and NGOs to discuss and implement solutions affecting air pollution, access to clean water, waste management and the environment.

Each region has its own task force – ours covers the Tijuana River Watershed.

A large part of the Task Force’s responsibility is to bring people together to find, present and discuss solutions. And that is exactly what Thursday’s meeting was about.

The great thing about these meetings is that it gives a chance for any stakeholder – us at Surfrider or you, a concerned San Diego County resident – to come learn about the different projects going on, how you can get involved and how you can partner with others working everyday on these issues.

Here is a run-down of who we heard from and what exactly they are up to. If you are interested in learning more about any of these projects, updates or activities, click into their titles for more info or contact us at

Assembly Bill 965
John Holder of WILDCOAST, an international organization that works to conserve coastal and marine ecosystems and wildlife, spoke about Assembly Bill 965. This bill, introduced by Assemblymember Eduardo Garcia of the 56th District, would require the California-Mexico Border Relations Council to establish funding and recommendations for a strategic plan to address water quality, public health and river parkway development of the New River. The New River flows north through Mexicali and continues through Calexico towards the Salton Sea. It is severely polluted by discharges of waste from domestic, agricultural and industrial sources in Mexico and the Imperial Valley. The bill mainly covers the New River but there will be a budget included for the Tijuana River Valley as well.

U.S. EPA’s Border 2020 Two-Year Action Plan
Doug Liden of the U.S. EPA spoke about the Program’s Two-Year Action Plan. The action plan includes a number of tasks that government agencies on both sides of the border will be working towards. They currently are still fine-tuning this list and once it is finalized, we will make sure to do a post about it here on the No B.S. blog.

Tire Removal in the Tijuana River Valley (TRV)
We heard from Bill Prinz, Program Manager for Solid Waste Enforcement, City of San Diego as he spoke about the tire disposal efforts in the border region. The current agencies cleaning up tires in the TRV are the City of San Diego, the County of San Diego, CA State Parks, the International Boundary and Water Commission and WILDCOAST. We learned that unfortunately, regional tire recycling centers will not recycle many of the recovered tires as they contain too much sediment.

CalRecycle Efforts in the Tijuana River Valley (TRV)
CalRecycle spoke to us about different projects they have undertaken in the TRV, including a remediation project in the Goat Canyon area of Tijuana in 2009 and 2011 where they helped clean up solid waste, sediment and tires. Their current project is working on flood control in the Tijuana channel.

Tijuana River Action Month
Surfrider San Diego’s No B.S. team is part of Tijuana River Action Network, a coalition of organizations from the U.S and Mexico that are committed to cross-border collaboration to address the conservation and restoration of the Tijuana River watershed through outreach, education and advocacy. Tijuana River Action Month (TRAM) is held every year during September and October with the purpose of bringing greater awareness to the issue and mobilizing a record number of volunteers.

Tijuana River Restoration Project – Pronatura Noreste
Gabriela Caloca Michel spoke to us about Pronatura Noreste, a Mexican organization dedicated to conservation and sustainable development. They have undertaken a very large project to recover the natural areas and habitat of the currently channelized Tijuana River.

Flood Resilient Infrastructure and Sustainable Environments (FloodRISE) Project
Faculty, researchers and students of the departments of Planning, Policy and Design and Civil and Environmental Engineering at UC Irvine have created the FloodRISE Project, aimed at promoting resilience to coastal flooding in Southern California. Using advanced computer models to map flooding hazards, flood risk information is made accessible to residents, businesses and civic leaders, ultimately enhancing flood risk planning and policies. They recently have begun working within the Los Laureles canyon area of Tijuana to assess and predict flood risk.

Goat Canyon Sediment Model
Students and faculty at San Diego State University are doing research on erosion control in the Goat Canyon area of Tijuana. They are looking at the hotspots of erosion and what the effects of channelization and road paving may be.

Nearshore Current Dye Study
Scientists with the Scripps Institution of Oceanography are currently gearing up for a large project that will track pollution flow through the surfzone and inner-shelf of the IB and Coronado beach regions. They will do this by releasing a non-toxic dye into the water at Border Field State Park and will physically be able to see how it travels – at what speeds and density – up the coast to Coronado beach. The purpose of this experiment is to get a better understanding of how pollutants travel in our waves after a storm.

Transboundary Flows through Main Channel
We heard from John Holder of WILDCOAST as he spoke about their efforts to reduce runoff after storms. Steve Smullen of the U.S. International Boundary and Water Commission (IBWC) showed us a presentation on Pump Station CILA, a Mexican pump station completed in 1991. Pump Station CILA can divert Tijuana River flows into the sewer system or the reclaimed water system. However, when river flows exceed 1000 lps, the pump station is shut down. In January and February of this year, increasing amounts of homeless living in the channel made it difficult to keep the pump clear, resulting in numerous overflows due to clogged screens. Fortunately, the City of Tijuana took the opportunity in February to remove all of the debris and sediment from the concrete channel between the CILA Pump Station and the border.




We’d love to have you at our monthly No B.S. committee meetings – they are open to all! Our next meeting will be July 7th at our Surfrider SD office. Come join us and find out more about the work being done in the border region and how you can help.