Tuesday, September 29, 2009

North American Development Bank signs US$22 million loan for water and wastewater works in Tijuana, Baja California

San Antonio, Texas – The North American Development Bank (NADB) and the Tijuana water utility, Comisión de Servicios Públicos de Tijuana (CESPT), have signed a loan agreement for up to $300 million pesos (currently valued at about US$22.07 million) for the expansion of the water and wastewater systems in the cities of Tijuana and Playas de Rosarito, Baja California.

The loan proceeds will be used for the first phase of the US$37.75 million project, which includes the construction of two water storage tanks with a total capacity of 2.4 million gallons and the installation of water distribution and sanitary sewer lines in areas currently without service in Tijuana. Water service will be provided to four subdivisions, benefiting 30,000 residents, while sewer service will be provided 46,300 residents in five subdivisions.

The project was certified by the Border Environment Cooperation Commission (BECC) on July 21, 2009, and upon completion will reduce environmental and health hazards associated with inadequate drinking water services and sewage disposal, thus providing a cleaner, healthier environment for local residents.

In addition to this project, NADB is supporting four other wastewater projects in Tijuana, which represent a total investment of US$79.8 million and will benefit an estimated 601, 000 residents by providing adequate wastewater collection and disposal services. As a result, approximately 20.88 million gallons of sewage a day is being properly treated prior to discharge into the Tijuana River and/or Pacific Ocean, which also benefits the southern California coastline.

Bank participation in all five projects consists of US$36.9 million in grants through its Border Environment Infrastructure Fund (BEIF), which operates with funding from the U.S. Environmental Protection (EPA), as well as US$35.5 million in loans.

“Over the 15 years the Bank has been in business, CESPT has shown itself to be a sound utility, committed to developing water and wastewater infrastructure befitting a city of the size of Tijuana” stated NADB Managing Director Jorge Garcés.

NADB is currently helping finance 129 environmental infrastructure projects throughout the U.S.-Mexico border region with almost US$982.9 million in loans and grants.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Following the flow of pollutants

Ocean-monitoring project will help researchers to predict beach closures

IMPERIAL BEACH – Dozens of scientists, engineers and volunteers in wet suits and immersed in 67-degree water are setting up sensitive equipment along Imperial Beach's shoreline to better understand water pollution.

The work is part of a $1.5 million experiment that may help manage beach closures along the entire California coast.

Scientists with UCSD's Scripps Institution of Oceanography say the goal of the Imperial Beach Pollutant Transport and Dilution Experiment is to track how pollutants are moved by waves, currents and tides.

On Monday, investigators dropped floating devices called drifters, which move like dye, into the Pacific Ocean. Dye testing is set to begin Monday.

Drifters and dye both simulate pollution. However, drifters provide better data for how fast pollutants spread along the shore while dye better monitors cross-shore movement.

The drifters and nontoxic dye will be released from the Tijuana River to just north of the Imperial Beach city limit, depending on the swell and other conditions.

Scientists say the markers will be carried by currents and form a plume as they head toward the sensors. Measurements of waves, current, depth and the dye will track the rate at which the plume widens and dilutes.

Falk Feddersen, one of three principal investigators and a Scripps scientist, said researchers hope to have the raw data analyzed so it can be presented in February at the 2010 Ocean Sciences Meeting in Portland.

“We will have a much better understanding of how pollutants get diluted in the water and how quickly they are transported if there's a spill or sewage in the surf zone,” Feddersen said.

Feddersen said a similar experiment in Huntington Beach in 2006 helped Scripps scientists improve sampling techniques but was limited in scope. This time, he said, “we're really going to dial it in.”

Feddersen said if pollutant movement is better understood, a model can be created to provide water-quality updates for ocean users. He said the updates could be made available online, much as current wave conditions are.

Six tripods holding sensors and meters sit anchored in the water off Ebony Avenue, marked by tall poles topped with colorful flags.

Researchers installed more equipment in the water and on the beach that will help gather and relay the information to Scripps hourly. Data will be collected for about one month. The experiment will run through Oct. 31.

The study was designed for dry-weather conditions when the Tijuana River flow is light and beach use is heavy. Imperial Beach was selected for its long, straight coastline and history of water pollution when it rains.

All-terrain vehicles will be used to survey the beach and specially equipped Jet Skis will collect data offshore. Warning signs are posted.

The study was funded by the National Science Foundation, California Department of Boating and Waterways, Office of Naval Research and California Sea Grant.

Feddersen said two recent meetings to discuss the study brought out locals who asked tough questions.

Ben McCue, a program manager at Wildcoast, an Imperial Beach-based conservation group, said he appreciates that Scripps reached out.

“This will give us one more tool to understand when the water is clean and when it is not,” McCue said. “The more people know, the better.”

Union-Tribune Staff Writer

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Council could declare emergency for area prone to flooding

— The San Diego City Council on Tuesday will consider declaring a local state of emergency for the Tijuana River Valley due to the possibility of severe flooding that could create “an imminent threat to life and property.”

Under the declaration, city officials could spend up to $4.4 million in storm-water funds to excavate several of the river's clogged drainage channels this month in advance of the rainy season.

In December, four horses and nearly a dozen goats drowned as moderate storms caused water to overflow the river and channels that were choked with sediment, vegetation and debris. Adding urgency is a prediction of El Niño conditions that could mean a wet winter for San Diego.

“We know based on what happened last winter that if the same or worse storms happen, there is a potential for a lot more flooding,” said Tony Heinrichs, director of the city's Storm Water Department. “We want to get in there now and dispose of the sediment so the flood-control channels operate as flood-control channels.”

John Gabaldon, president of the Tijuana River Valley Equestrian Association, said his group is pleased with the proposal.

“It's necessary, and if it passes, it will prevent devastation and the loss of some very vibrant businesses down there,” Gabaldon said.

Heinrichs said a recently completed portion of a U.S. Department of Homeland Security border fence in an area known as Smuggler's Gulch greatly changed the hydrology of the area just north of the U.S.-Mexico border.

The valley routinely gets tons of trash and debris when it rains, but Heinrichs said the project allowed more sediment to clog nearby storm-drain channels.

“We also believe the water flow itself increased in velocity, which causes scouring action and leads to potential flooding problems,” he said.

Homeland Security waived federal and state laws for the fence construction, including for drainage and erosion controls.

Heinrichs said that while the city seeks the emergency declaration, it also is asking regulatory agencies to expedite emergency cleanup permits.

The city also will consider asking Homeland Security officials Tuesday to affirm that the order waiving all laws for the fence project extends to city flood-control work in the area. That would help streamline the permitting process, Heinrichs said.

On Wednesday, Mayor Jerry Sanders and Councilman Ben Hueso met in Washington, D.C., with Homeland Security and Army Corps of Engineers representatives. Mayoral spokesman Darren Pudgil said the meetings were productive, with both agencies pledging to work “to improve the situation in the valley.”

Heinrichs said there is a long-term plan to have the Army Corps conduct studies of Tijuana River Valley flooding issues that would lead to improvement projects to stop the annual deluge of trash and debris.

Finally, the city has been working for two years on a multiyear master cleanup permit that would allow the work to proceed year-round as needed. The master permit involves all flood-prone areas of the city.

The city expects to receive the permit by the end of the year. However, Tijuana River Valley horse owners and farmers have complained that would be too late. The river and some channels were not cleared after December's rains and remain clogged.

Dick Tynan, who owns Kimzey Ranch on Hollister Street and Monument Road, where many of the animals drowned, said he has heard residents threatening litigation if they lose livestock and crops again.

“A lawsuit could be possible,” Tynan said. “That is very, very likely. Two inches of rain will kill this valley if it's not cleaned up.”

Heinrichs said he is hopeful that council members will declare the local emergency.

“We want to do what we can to protect life and property,” he said. “When you actually have horses and goats drown and the (county's) Swiftwater Rescue Team saving people and animals, it's fresh in people's memories.”

Union-Tribune Staff Writer

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Coastal Clean Up Day!

Saturday, September 19th 9am-12pm
There will be clean up sites all over San Diego County and the Tijuana River Citizens’ Council will be hosting a site near the Dairy Mart bridge in Imperial Beach. Please join us at this location if you can, it’s definitely an area that needs the help. Check out cleanupday.org/cleanupsites.htm?ID=E&ID2=170 for details and to register.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Researchers Study Ocean Pollution Off Imperial Beach

SAN DIEGO — UC San Diego researchers are trying to find out how pollution travels in the ocean off of Imperial Beach. The area has a history of water quality problems after rainstorms.
The researchers are using a non-toxic pink dye to track how pollution travels in the ocean from the border to the southern boundary of Silver Strand State Beach.

Other tools will be used to measure and track the dye including drifting devices with built-in GPS antennas.

Scripps Institution of Oceanography researcher Falk Feddersen says the the goal is to understand how currents and waves affect pollution.

"Does it dilute more or less at low tide or at high tide?" Feddersen asks. "Does it dilute more or less if the currents are really strong or very weak? These are the kinds of general questions that will be phrased more mathematically and statistically, but these are the kinds of questions that we're going to address."

Researchers will also use various instruments mounted on tripod frames in the surf west of Imperial Beach Boulevard.

The field experiments will continue through the end of October.

By Ed Joyce

Friday, September 4, 2009

18th Annual Paddle for Clean Water Festival

On Sunday, September 13th, 2009 beach lovers and ocean enthusiasts unite for clean water as The Surfrider Foundation San Diego Chapter hosts the 18th Annual Paddle for Clean Water Festival presented by Clif Bar. The event starts with free breakfast at 9 a.m., features a paddle around the Ocean Beach Pier at 10 a.m., then the festival continues until 5 p.m. at the Ocean Beach Pier parking lot. Full schedule is listed below.

This 18th year of the Paddle for Clean Water promises a full day of fun for everyone featuring booths highlighting environmental awareness and action, local artists and eco-friendly vendor; free massages; free surf lessons, a free surfboard demo from Holeman Surf Designs, a kids’ fun area featuring arts and crafts activities, food, great bands and a Stone Brew beer garden for folks age 21 and over.

The paddle around the OB Pier at 10 a.m. features all sorts of paddlecraft – surfboards, bodyboards, kayaks, outrigger canoes, etc. – in a non-competitive paddle out and around the Ocean Beach Pier to raise awareness to pollution problems along San Diego’s coastline. The event will also include breakfast for all paddlers starting at 9 a.m., along with special guest speakers, live music, a huge raffle with a Holeman Surf Designs surfboard as the grand prize, a beach cleanup, and bands all afternoon.

The decline of near-shore water quality remains one of the biggest threats to our world’s beaches and coastlines. In addition to destroying marine habitats, it poses a significant risk to the health and welfare of beachgoers. Two Surfrider campaigns will be highlighted this year:

* No B.S. - The No Border Sewage coalition to clean up the waters around the Mexico border
* San Diego’s water supply and how it relates to the marine environment – Know Your H2O!

9am: Light breakfast is served for all paddlers - FREE!
10am: Paddle around the OB Pier
11am: Group photo, guest speakers and raffle
11:30am: Live music begins with The Professors
11:30am: Stone Brew beer garden opens in parking lot & Kids arts and crafts area opens on grassy area near lifeguard tower
12:35pm: Pullman Standard
1:40pm: C Money and The Players Inc.
2:45pm: Tribal Seeds
4:00pm: Iration
5:00pm: Festival ends