Earlier this month, the federal government announced its intention to include $300 million in a major trade agreement to address border sewage. The United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) has bipartisan support but still needs to be ratified by all three countries before going into effect.

Surfrider’s San Diego Chapter has been calling on the federal government to use just such an international trade agreement to address pollution in the Tijuana River Valley since 2017, when a massive sewage spill unleashed 143 million gallons of sewage in the area and closed beaches for weeks. Surfrider and other regional stakeholders are strongly encouraged by the announcement and are still working hard to ensure that the extent of the border sewage problem is properly addressed.

The news comes at a perfect time, with public agencies from around San Diego passing a wave of joint resolutions that urge the federal government to “take all necessary steps to end the clear public health, environment, and safety issues caused by transboundary pollution in the Tijuana River Valley.” Those steps would be achieved, according to the resolution goals, by authorizing funding and providing authority to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to pursue infrastructure-based solutions.

While resolutions are non-binding, they are an expression of what is being seen as a “unified voice” coming from the San Diego region, and are a strong symbolic tool that can be used to offer direction or apply pressure to decision-making entities — which in this case, is the federal government.

“We are seeing what is probably the most unified momentum we’ve ever had in the region to finally force the federal government to act on border sewage,” says Gabriela Torres, Policy Coordinator for the Surfrider Foundation San Diego Chapter. As a participant in the Tijuana River Valley Recovery Team, Gabriela represents Surfrider in a group of over 30 interested nonprofits, regulators, elected officials, and members of the public who have been meeting and collaborating to try to address fixes to border sewage since the group was created in 2008. 

Together, the news about USMCA funding and resolution approvals is monumental given the time and effort that Surfrider and others have spent trying to unite the region around a strategy. 

To learn more and get involved, please join us at any of Surfrider San Diego’s Clean Border Water meetings, held monthly at the Imperial Beach Public Library.