Agreement Marks a Key Milestone for New River Improvement Project

For Immediate Release
October 30, 2017

Media Contact:
Alex Barnum, (916) 324-9670,

CALEXICO, Calif. — A project to improve water quality in the New River as it crosses into California took a major step forward today with the signing of an agreement by the city of Calexico, Imperial County and the Imperial Irrigation District.

Under the agreement, the city, county and IID will contribute to the operation and maintenance costs for the New River Improvement Project once it is complete. The infrastructure project is designed to address the river’s long-standing pollution and related public health problems while enhancing the quality of life for local residents.

“This agreement marks an important milestone in our efforts to improve the health of the New River,” California Secretary for Environmental Protection Matthew Rodriquez said today at a signing ceremony at Nosotros Park. “It shows that local stakeholders are committed and working together to realize the benefits of this project for the people of Calexico and Imperial County.”

The New River, which runs from Mexico through the city of Calexico to the Salton Sea, is heavily polluted with trash and waste from municipal, agricultural and industrial sources, posing a threat to public health and hindering local economic development.

The water infrastructure project would address these problems by installing a trash screen just downstream from the Mexico border; piping polluted water away from Calexico to wetlands and aeration structures for remediation; and replacing polluted water in the river channel with treated wastewater from the city’s treatment plant.

The New River Improvement Project also envisions a pedestrian and bicycle parkway that would run along the river in the Calexico area. Design of the River Parkway has been recently completed using federal and state funding, with construction to begin soon.

Last year, Senate Bill 859 appropriated $1.4 million for the planning and design of the water infrastructure part of the project. The Colorado River Basin Regional Water Quality Control Board, which will oversee the planning phase, is working with the State Water Resources Control Board to receive bids from outside contractors. These bids are to be submitted by Nov. 30. Construction is expected to begin upon completion of the planning phase.

Under the agreement signed today, the city of Calexico, Imperial County and IID each commit up to $50,000 in annual funding – a total of $150,000 a year – for the ongoing operation and maintenance of the project once it is complete.

Since early this year, CalEPA has convened biweekly meetings among the local and state agencies to help bring the agreement to fruition. CalEPA Secretary Rodriquez chairs the California Mexico Border Relations Council, which is charged with coordinating efforts to implement the New River Improvement Project.

For full text of the New River Improvement Project Memorandum of Understanding, visit this page.

Following are statements from local and state officials:

Maritza Hurtado, Mayor of Calexico:
“We are gratified to see that another important milestone is met in our incessant effort to improve the social and environmental ambiance in our community. The City of Calexico acknowledges the willingness and support of our state partners to help remediate the current condition of the New River in Imperial County. In addition, we recognize the leadership of Assemblyman Eduardo Garcia and Senator Ben Hueso in supporting this project by drafting policy to help implement remediation projects identified in the New River Improvement Project Strategic Plan. Lastly, the partnership with the County of Imperial and the Imperial Irrigation District is indicative of the mutual interest of all parties to solve this waterway problem for the benefit of our community.”

Michael Kelley, Chair of the Imperial County Board of Supervisors:
“It is truly a pleasure to be a part of this significant occasion where several parties at various levels of government have come together to affirm their commitment to helping to move this long-awaited project forward to improve the quality of the New River for Imperial County’s residents who live, work, or play near the waterway.”

John R. Renison, Imperial County Supervisor (District 1):
“As District 1 Supervisor representing Calexico, I am pleased with the cooperation of the various parties that assisted in reaching this milestone. The signing represents a welcome relief to the west side Calexico residents who for decades have endured countless delays in progress for the New River. This document marks an important first step in the implementation of the New River Improvement Project.”

Erik Ortega, Imperial Irrigation District Division 4 Director:
“This MOU has been endorsed by the locals and is a critical first step towards a healthier more vibrant community, not just in Calexico but the entire stretch of the New River. There is more work ahead of us but IID will do its part to ensure the project’s success.”

Nancy Wright, Chair of the Colorado River Basin Regional Water Quality Control Board:
“We are very pleased that our local partners (IID, Imperial County, and City of Calexico) are signing the MOU regarding operation and maintenance of New River Improvement Project for the Calexico area. This collaboration is essential to address the threat that the New River poses to public health and paves the way for the New River parkway to materialize.”