SAN DIEGO (AP) — The San Diego region will get $300 million in federal funding for a new U.S. facility to capture sewage spills from Mexico before they foul shorelines north of the border, according to a newspaper report Sunday.
Congressional leaders announced the funding in December, but it wasn’t clear whether the money would be distributed across the entire Southwest border or dedicated specifically to address pollution in the Tijuana River Valley just south of San Diego County, the Los Angeles Times reported.
Now officials believe most — if not all — of the money will be doled out in and around the San Diego area, thanks to language included in the overhaul of the North American Free Trade Agreement signed by President Trump on Jan. 29, the newspaper said.
“This is a huge, huge deal,” said Imperial Beach Mayor Serge Dedina.
Toxic water pollution from Mexico has shuttered shorelines in Imperial Beach and other San Diego County areas more than 500 days over the last three years, according to court papers cited by the Times.
The approach is a shift from longstanding efforts to help Mexico maintain its wastewater system in Tijuana.
Last summer, top officials with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency visited San Diego to lay out a blueprint with several options for how to address the pollution.
Since then, local leaders have pushed to build a $400 million facility north of the border to intercept and treat the pollution. It’s been estimated the project could reduce cross-border flows from roughly 138 days a year on average, down to about 12.
San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer promised that the money would be used to “clean up the sewage spills from the Tijuana River Valley once and for all.” Faulconer was present when Trump signed the agreement at the White House last week.
EPA officials are scheduled to hold a public meeting March 9 in Coronado to discuss next steps.