IMPERIAL BEACH, Calif. (Border Report) — After serving as mayor of Imperial Beach for the past eight years, Serge Dedina will chair his last city council meeting this week.
Dedina is getting out of politics altogether and returning to WILDCOAST, an environmental organization he founded 22 years ago.
“It was a very rewarding experience as mayor of my hometown,” said Dedina.
His tenure as mayor was filled with efforts to clean up the Tijuana River Valley, which continues to be stained by raw sewage, trash and toxic materials that flow north of the border from the city of Tijuana.
Most of the pollution ends up in the Pacific Ocean forcing the closure of beaches in Imperial Beach and further up the coast.
“I’m happy with the progress we’ve made on raising funding in the United States and Mexico all the teamwork that’s led to a comprehensive plan,” said Dedina. “But what we saw over the last eight years, especially the last few years things got much worse on the ground, much more pollution from everywhere, we actually went backwards in terms of the impact of sewage.”
Dedina stated residents have not been able to enjoy about 12 miles of coastline for most of the year as bacteria levels, due to the raw sewage in the water, have forced the County of San Diego to declare the beaches off limits.
“It’s three cities, San Diego, Imperial Beach and Coronado,” said Dedina. “We lost two state beaches and our Navy SEALs can’t train in the water in front of a billion dollar Navy SEAL base and our border patrol agents are getting sick from contact with sewage and toxic waste, it’s as bad as it gets.”
Dedina’s relentless push to get the federal government involved has led to the U.S. promising $350 million while Mexico has pledged $144 million to replace failing sewage treatment facilities in Tijuana and for sewage-mitigation north of the border.
Works on these projects is expected to begin by 2024.
Dedida told Border Report that in spite of not being able to accomplish more in the Tijuana River Valley, he is proud of his work and that residents of Imperial Beach are better off now than they were eight years ago.
“We don’t have graffiti or garbage on the streets, there aren’t any homeless camps, we’re doing a really good job of keeping our residents safe in our working class town, to me that’s the most important, regardless of the sewage issue … we’ve worked on street safety and public safety and making sure that having a great life is open and accessible to all.”
Dedina said he is also proud of the additional artwork and recreational opportunities now available around Imperial Beach.
He is also credited for leading a drive to remove old chain link fences throughout the city improving the aesthetics in neighborhoods around IB.
Paloma Aguirre, a current city council member, will take over as mayor early next year.