Serge Dedina says, “…before any U.S. government agency or any U.S. water agency gets a permit to suck desal water from the most polluted coast in North America and sell it back to U.S. consumers, they need to prioritize cleaning up this coastline.”
On June 27, 2016 Wildcoast and Surfrider Foundation wrote a letter to the Otay Water District expressing concern over a proposed project to import desalinated water from Mexico into the United States.
According to an extensive 324-page document titled “Draft Environmental Impact Report/Environmental Impact Statement for the Otay Mesa Conveyance and Disinfection System Project, San Diego County, California Presidential Permit Application Review” — dated April 2016 — the Otay Water District submitted an application for a Presidential Permit on November 25, 2013.
The Permit proposes the construction of a four-mile-long potable water pipeline that would transport water from the Rosarito Desalination plant across the U.S.-Mexico border to Otay Mesa. Additional infrastructure would include a metering station, a disinfection facility, an outfall structure and a potential pump station on the U.S. side.
The document makes clear that “The District is not involved in the planning, design, construction, operation, or maintenance of any facilities in Mexico.”
The Rosarito Desalination Plant, Largest In Western Hemisphere
According to the San Diego Union Tribune, Baja California’s state government is planning to build a massive desalination plant in Rosarito Beach. A public-private parternship, the plant will be collocated at the existing Presidente Juarez electrical generating facility. It is anticipated to create 50 million gallons of water by 2019 and another 50 million gallons by 2024, possibly making the plant one of the largest in the Western Hemisphere.
The Otay Water District–which serves about 213,000 people and covers neighborhoods in Spring Valley, La Presa, Rancho San Diego, Jamul, eastern Chula Vista and eastern Otay Mesa—faces problems of drought and competition for water rights from the Colorado River and Northern California Bay Delta. As a consequence, the Otay Water District wants to diversify its imported water supplies. Importing desalinated water from Mexico could provide U.S. residents with a large new source.
WildCoast and Surfrider Say Presidential Permit Must Be Denied
They say the project allows a local California government agency to avoid California state laws. Moreover, the letter says, “it discourages resolution of long-standing cross-border disputes over water pollution abatement and Colorado River water allocation.”
I met with Serge Dedina, Co-founder and Executive Director of WildCoast, to find out more. He explained, “Surfrider and WildCoast are arguing, before any U.S. government agency or any U.S. water agency gets a Permit to suck desal water from the most polluted coast in North America and sell it back to U.S. consumers, they need to prioritize cleaning up this coastline and cleaning up the sewage so that U.S. residents, U.S. Military and Customs and Border Patrol agents are not affected by this raw sewage.”
Sewage Discharge From Mexico Flows To IB and Coronado
When sewage is collected in Mexico, much of the waste is sent to a place called San Antonio de Las Buenos or Punto Banderas just 6 miles South of the Border.
WildCoast and Surfrider estimate that the sewage being discharged in the ocean each day “could be anywhere from 30 to 50 million gallons a day depending. No one’s really counting. We think it’s grown exponentially because of the increase in development that’s, in theory it’s a primary plant, but they don’t actually treat the sewage, they just put it through some ponds and then dump it in the ocean right on the beach,” Dedina says.
In addition, Dedina explains, sewage is being discharged into the ocean each day at multiple sites from Las Playas down to Rosarito, Mexico. Some of the sewage is dumped illegally at night.
“It’s been a problem for years and no one has done anything about it. We’re getting more sewage flowing out of here than ever and when we get a south wind, a south swell, it blows up to Imperial Beach and Coronado.”
Dedina has already started meeting with elected officials to let them know. He has talked with Ben Hueso and will be meeting with federal legislators.
Serge Dedina Calls For Head of IBWC To Be Fired
At the Imperial Beach City Council meeting on Wednesday, July 20th, Dedina—who is also the Mayor of Imperial Beach—publicly said he thought the head of the International Boundary and Water Commission (IBWC), Ed Drusina, should be fired. “Last week when I met the U.S Ambassador to Mexico, I let her know that he was not representing the interests of my constituents.”
The IBWC oversees issues of the U.S.-Mexico boundary line, including maintaining international dams, hydroelectric power plants, international bridges and drainage structures. In addition, according to the IBWC’s Strategic Plan for FY2011-FY2016, “The 1944 Treaty directed the IBWC to give preferential attention to the solution of all border sanitation problems concerning boundary and transboundary waters, and granted authority to provide all necessary sanitary measures or works to satisfy that requirement.”
Dedina said, “He is not doing a single thing to help stop the flows of raw sewage south of the border…The International Boundary and Water Commission and agencies appear to be pushing to get a Presidential Permit for the Otay Water District… The effort to do that have basically meant that any effort to clean up the discharge of raw sewage…have been completely stopped.”
The solution, according to Dedina, should not be spending money on a desalination plant or a pipeline, but rather reclamation of the sewage water.