Times of San Diego: Sen. Padilla Announces $103 Million Funding for South Bay Sewer Plant Repair

By Debbie L. Sklar

U.S. Senator Alex Padilla, D-Calif., said Thursday that he has secured more than $103 million in additional funding to help repair the South Bay International Wastewater Treatment Plant located near the U.S.- Mexico border.

In a news release, Padilla said the money was appropriate for the U.S. International Boundary and Water Commission, as part of a bipartisan package.

The bill also allows other federal agencies, along with state and local governments, to contribute funds to the IBWC plant’s rehabilitation and reconstruction, Padilla’s office said. The announcement comes in the wake of growing concern by coastal city and county leaders over border sewage pollution, which has closed San beaches for hundreds of days.

County officials said that since December 2022, “an alarming 35 billion gallons” have flowed north into U.S. territory from the sewage treatment plant in Punta Bandera, Mexico, impacting the San Diego coastline during the summer.

Padilla said that there’s a need for “an urgent, all-hands-on-deck effort to combat this pollution crisis.”

“The package announced Thursday heeds my call to allow other federal agencies and state and local governments to contribute funds to clean up the dangerous pollution contaminating Southern California’s air and water while providing an additional $103 million. “This is a major step forward, and I will keep fighting for resources and working with my colleagues to finally resolve the Tijuana River pollution crisis,” Padilla said.

According to his office, Padilla — who chairs the Senate Environment and Public Works Subcommittee on Fisheries, Water and Wildlife — recently urged the Army Corps of Engineers to address the pollution crisis during an EPW hearing on the Water Resources Development Act of 2024.

Last June, Padilla traveled to the U.S. International Boundary and Water Commission Wastewater Treatment Plant.

After Tropical Storm Hilary hit the Pacific coast in August 2023, Padilla and the late Sen. Dianne Feinstein asked Senate leadership to include $310 million in the emergency supplemental bill for needed infrastructure repair to treat the wastewater flowing across the border, which has closed local beaches for more than 800 days in a row, according to Padilla’s office.

Both senators also put language in the fiscal year 2023 appropriations package “to eliminate red tape” and let the Environmental Protection Agency deliver $300 million, previously secured in the U.S.-Mexico-Canada agreement, to the IBWC for infrastructure projects.

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