California-Mexico Border Relations Council Meeting

July 31, 2017
1:00 pm – 4:00 pm
San Diego Regional Water Quality Control Board
2375 Northside Drive, Suite 100
San Diego, CA 92108-2700

The meeting was called to order at 1:17 p.m. by Secretary Matthew Rodriquez as several Council Members were arriving from a delayed flight.

1.     Roll call

The following Council members were present:

  • Secretary Matthew Rodriquez, California Environmental Protection Agency (CalEPA), Chair
  • International Affairs Liaison Helen Lopez, representing Director Mark Ghilarducci, California Office of Emergency Services (CalOES)
  • Assistant Secretary Ben De Alba, representing Secretary Brian Kelly, California State Transportation Agency (CalSTA)
  • Undersecretary Deborah Hoffman, representing Secretary Alexis Podesta, Business Consumer Services and Housing Agency (BCSH)
  • Bridget Coyle, Associate Director, Land Division, U.S. EPA, Region 9, United States Environmental Protection Agency (U.S. EPA)
  • Secretary Karen Ross, California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) – via conference line
  • Secretary John Laird, Natural Resources Agency (CNRA) – via conference line
  • Chief April Fernandez, representing Secretary Diana Dooley, California Health and Human Services Agency (CHHS)
  • Deputy Director Awinash Bawle, representing Director Panorea Avdis, California Governor’s Office of Business and Economic Development (GO-Biz)

A quorum of the Council members was established.

2. Welcome and Introductions

Secretary Rodriquez provided opening remarks and welcomed the public.  Secretary Rodriquez provided an overview of the agenda, and noted that action items would include voting on approval of the Jan. 31, 2017 Council meeting minutes and the California-Mexico Border Relations Council 2016 Annual Report.

3. Vote on Minutes from Jan. 31, 2017 Council Meeting

A motion to approve the minutes was made by Undersecretary Hoffman and seconded by Secretary Laird. All members in attendance were in favor. No nays. No abstentions. Minutes were therefore unanimously approved.

4. California-Mexico Border Relations Council 2016 Annual Report

Analyst Elizabeth King of CalEPA’s Border Affairs Program presented the 2016 Annual Report of the California-Mexico Border Relations Council.  The report is a collaborative effort between Council Member Agencies to summarize border-related activities conducted by Member Agencies during the prior calendar year of 2016.  Highlights include but are not limited to:

  • GO-Biz participating in several trade initiatives with Mexico to expand bilateral trade and investment opportunities.
  • Under BCSH, $1.4 million from the colonia set-aside funds being awarded to meet needs of residents of the colonias, communities within the border region with marginal conditions related to housing and infrastructure. Funds are used to provide services such as potable water, adequate sewer systems, and decent, safe and sanitary housing.
  • Environmental work under the working groups of the Climate Change and Environment MOU between California and Mexico regarding air quality, clean vehicles, wildfires and climate change. The regional water boards continued important work related to the Tijuana River Valley watershed, in collaboration with the Recovery Team, and the New River Improvement Project was awarded $1.4 million for the planning and engineering phase.
  • The California Energy Commission working with Mexican stakeholders on clean energy policy.
  • CDFA working with the state of Sonora to obtain the bovine brucellosis free status from the US Department of Agriculture, making Sonora the first state in Mexico to achieve this recognition.
  • CDFA, the Office of Binational Border Health, DPR and U.S. EPA working on pesticide safety raining throughout California.
  • CalSTA working on projects such as the flagship Otay Mesa East International Land Port of Entry.
  • California Highway Patrol’s border division work on auto theft recovery, human trafficking emancipation and enforcement at the border.
  • CalOES’s border work through the Wildfires Working Group and through the San Diego Tijuana Earthquake Planning Scenario project.

Secretary Rodriquez recommended the Council send the report to the Legislature pursuant to Assembly Bill 3021, Statutes of 2006.  Undersecretary Hoffman moved to approve the motion, and Secretary Laird seconded the motion.  All members in attendance were in favor. No nays. No abstentions. The report was therefore unanimously approved and will be submitted to the Legislature.


5. Regional Solid Waste Working Group

Update on the WILDCOAST Waste Tire and Waste Management Demonstration Project

US-Mexico Border Coordinator Cristhabel Verdugo of WILDCOAST presented progress on their demonstration project.  The Secretary noted the project time was extended until December 2016 by the Council at the prior Council meeting.  Updates on the project were given in Spanish with translation services provided at the meeting.

The demonstration project is being conducted in Tijuana.  Special waste, such as tires, does not have adequate disposal or storage. Between one and two million used tires are exported to Mexico from California every year.  In Tijuana, WILDCOAST focused on rehabilitating three sites:

  • Matadero Canyon
  • Los Laureles Canyon
  • Tijuana River Channel

They collected used tires every month.  Initially, they collected tires once per month, then bimonthly, and they are now collecting tires twice per week.  People live in settlements near the canals.  WILDCOAST attempted to reduce trash flow from these settlements into the canals.  Difficulties have included the rainy season making it too muddy to collect tires, and illegal tire burning along the river, which WILCOAST reported to SPA and the City of Tijuana Department of the Environment.  As of June 2017, they have collected and stored 35,000 tires at a temporary storage site owned by GEN, a tire shredding facility in eastern Tijuana.  The goal is to properly recycle these tires.  Pasa has the ability to recycle them and vulcanize them, and an Asian-based company wants to build a plant in Tijuana to do so.  This plant would take at least six months to build.

Questions and Comments from Council Members:

Undersecretary Hoffman asked what sorts of problems they faced, and asked where the tires will go for recycling.  Response: The tires are being stored near Tecate, and no processing has been done.  Some problems include transporting the tires and having the technology for recycling.  Those living in the settlements want to burn the tires to get the metal to sell, and they protested WILDCOAST removing the tires, so WILDCOAST had to call the police.  Liaison Lopez asked if there is a current market to sell the tire-derived products.  Response: There is not currently a market but people are interested in tire shred product once it becomes available.  Secretary Rodriquez asked when the market could open for used tires, and if there is a timeline for opening up this market.  Response:  The market should open up sometime next year.  Secretary Rodriquez wished WILDCOAST continued success on this project.

Update on the completion of the Sonoran Institute’s demonstration project entitled “An integrated approach for addressing solid waste pollution sources in the New River, Calexico-Mexicali Region”

Assistant Director of the Colorado River Delta Program Edith Santiago of Sonoran Institute presented the update.  This project is coming to a close.  They have developed new partners to continue the activities of the project.  There are five components to the project:

A. Needs Assessment B. Sanitation C. Environmental Education D. Communications and Outreach E. Legal Framework

They have been working for three years in the area and for 1.5 years on this project.  This includes work in the International Drain, Colector del Norte drains, and the Mexicali drain.  In the neighborhoods surrounding the area, some are aware of the issues regarding the drains and some are not.

Results of the demonstration project include:

  • Identifying six main illegal dumping sites in the New River.
  • Improving the image of the sites in Mexicali, and decreasing the volume of solid waste in the water bodies and margins of the drains. This resulted in decreased health risks because as the water flows better, mosquito populations decrease.  As the sites became beautified, there was less subsequent illegal dumping and neighbors conducted watch.
  • Creating greenspaces at the different drain sites. This creates habitat for migratory and resident birds.
  • Establishing a sanitation model that can be replicated, which helps the sustainability of the model.
  • Collecting 6,066 cubic meters of trash (exceeding their goal). They defined and quantified the different types of trash, such as domestic waste, construction waste and textiles.
  • Removing 1,700 tires from the sites. The used tires were sent to the Baja California Secretariat of Environmental Protection (SPA) in Mexicali.  Community members helped collect the tires.
  • Planting 450 trees that were donated by the state and municipal governments. Sonoran Institute invited community members to be involved in tree planting and has become the specialist in beautifying drains with the community in Mexicali.
  • Hosting three mini-fairs in schools near the drains, with over 700 children participating, as well as parents and teachers. Ten teachers were trained in conservation and pollution prevention, and Sonoran Institute conducted recycling workshops and community workshops in the parks regarding safety with police officers.
  • Building three murals with community members.
  • Conducting a communications campaign, copywriting Mexicali Fluye as a brand, and registering the slogan.
  • Focusing on social media outreach to prevent illegal dumping in the sites. Their Fluye billboard was displayed for two months.

The presenter shared before and after photos, and played a video.  In the future, Sonoran Institute is hoping to restore a lagoon in Mexicali near the New River.  Next steps include engaging and involving private-sector businesses.  Sonoran Institute has been working with SEMARNAT, and although this project is now complete, they hope to continue working on this project.

Questions and Comments from Council Members:

Secretary Rodriquez asked how they could find funding to continue their work.  Response:  They will work with local businesses to gain funding.  Liaison Lopez asked if there was a longer-term maintenance plan for the drains.  Response:  They will work with the government and other non-profits in the area, as well as with local communities, to partner to continue maintaining the drains.  The local communities are being trained to call the local police if they see illegal dumping.  Undersecretary Hoffman asked if they focus on the state of Sonora, given their name of “Sonoran Institute.”  Response: Their base office is in Tucson, and the idea is to work in the Sonoran Desert, which includes Mexicali.  They work through the Colorado River Delta Program in the riparian corridors and urban areas.

Assistant Secretary De Alba said they are doing great work, and asked if they have seen improvement after their cleanup efforts.  Response:  Yes, once the community sees the sites beautified with trees and signs, they take ownership and feel empowered to feel love for the clean sites to take care of them.  In the past 1.5 years, the drains have remained much cleaner due to community watch.  The presenter stated she would also like to recognize Michelle, the project coordinator, for her work.  Associate Director Coyle said the U.S. EPA was proud to partner with the Sonoran Institute for a community event.  Director Jeff Scott had marveled at how many students were at the event, and believes Sonoran Institute did a good job planting a seed with the community.  U.S. EPA sees this event as a success story, and was happy to help fund some of their work.  Secretary Rodriquez wished the Sonoran Institute continued success and hopes to continue to hear from them in future Council meetings.

6. Addressing Environmental Health Hazards at the Border

CalEnviroScreen 3.0 Update

Secretary Rodriquez introduced the topic of environmental health hazards at the border and noted that additional border-region data is needed concerning air quality and drinking water.  MPH Research Scientist Laura August from OEHHA presented the latest version of CalEnviroScreen 3.0 and conditions at the border.

A new version of the geographic analysis tool, CalEnviroScreen 3.0, was released in January 2017 using 20 different indicators on about 8,000 census tracks in the state, including the border region.  The tool identifies disadvantaged communities exposed to pollution, which allows these communities to qualify to receive cap-and-trade funding proceeds, and allows the California Environmental Protection Agency (CalEPA) to prioritize and direct resources.  AB 1059 (Garcia, Statutes of 2015) mandated OEHHA to report on and use air quality, drinking water quality, hazardous waste and other indicators to update CalEnviroScreen, including border-specific updates, in order to identify high pollution and high vulnerability areas.  Communities at the border are now more accurately defined with the new release of this tool.  Research Scientist August presented the 20 indicators being used.  Examples of indicators that were updated and affect the border region include:

  1. PM 2.5 information from 2012-2014 provided by the California Air Resources Board (CARB) air monitoring network. San Ysidro and Otay Mesa gained new monitoring in 2015.  CARB extrapolated the 2015 data to be included in CalEnviroScreen 3.0.
  2. Diesel particulate matter: they found in certain areas that the diesel particulate matter was underestimated, so that issue is remedied in the new update to the tool.
  3. Toxic releases from facilities are also captured and measured by U.S. EPA’s toxic release inventory. In the previous version of the tool, Mexico’s emissions weren’t included, but in the new update, Mexico data is included for facilities within 50 km of the border region as toxic releases in this proximity affect California border residents.
  4. The traffic density indicator was also updated using data from the California Department of Transportation (Caltrans). They added more ports of entry data and traffic density for parallel roadways in Mexico close to the border in Tijuana.  They may expand this to Calexico region as well in the future.

Secretary Rodriquez thanked OEHHA for their work to keep the tool up-to-date and useful.

Updates on a Drinking Water Study in Imperial County and the San Ysidro Community Air Monitoring Project

Toxicologist Vanessa Galaviz from OEHHA presented updates on an air monitoring project and drinking water study.  The San Ysidro air study is located north of Tijuana, a region that experiences heavy traffic daily.  Seventy percent of residents in this community are Latino.  Toxicologist Galaviz shared demographic socio-economic statistics on San Ysidro.  Traffic-related air pollution and tire and trash burning are serious concerns.  OEHHA was able to conduct a community air monitoring study on PM 2.5 using 13 community air monitors.  OEHHA partnered with San Diego State University (SDSU), University of Washington, Casa Familiar, and others.  They value participatory democracy, which  entails a steering committee of 12 community members guiding the study and the concerns of the residents.  They hosted extensive community workshops to decide the location of the air monitors with resident input through a mapping workshop, and they created a community website to access the data from the 13 monitors to make it more readily available.  This study was modeled after an Imperial County study, which utilizes 40 community air monitors and gives access to the data through the Identifying Violations Affecting Neighborhoods (IVAN) website.  AB 617 is a relevant law to this project.  They recently gained Border 2020 funding to install more air monitors in Tijuana.

According to a water quality assessment for rural counties, non-potable water is being served to approximately 4,000 households via lateral canals in Imperial County.  Households are being told by the Imperial Irrigation District (IID) that this water cannot be used for drinking.  Many residents cannot afford different drinking water.  These isolated communities may not even receive the information.  OEHHA is starting a study on this in September 2017.  They want to add additional drinking water information to CalEnviroScreen.

Questions and Comments from Council Members:

 Secretary Rodriquez asked what is contaminated about the water.  Response:  The water is meant primarily for agricultural use.  There is no filtration system to it, and it contains many biological and pesticide contaminants.  Liaison Lopez asked if it has been confirmed households are using the water and getting ill.  Response:  The study is starting in September to gather more information.  Secretary Rodriquez appreciates the studies to give us information to address these concerns in the future.

7. Update on Border Health

Chief April Fernandez, Office of Binational Border Health (OBBH), California Department of Public Health, and Program Specialist Graciela Mendoza reported on vector-borne diseases at the border. As of July 28, 2017, there have been 581 infections of Zika in California.  There are none in Imperial County but nine in San Diego County from travel.  OBBH is working to inform pregnant women, travelers and healthcare providers.  They have recently encouraged women of childbearing age not to travel in Zika-infected areas through a news release.  Mexico is one example of a place that has a large number of cases of Zika infection.  They are working on events and meetings to expand awareness of Zika for prevention purposes.  This includes Promotores (also known as community health workers), trainings and a binational epi-meeting in September with Mexico to establish joint messaging related to border crossings and Zika.

Chief Fernandez referred to the pesticide project in the 2016 Annual Council Report and thanked the Council for their work on the report.  California and Baja California are major agricultural states.  In Imperial County, there are 30,000 farm workers and millions of pounds of pesticides used per year to support agriculture.  Program Specialist Graciela Mendoza presented further information on pesticide usage for agricultural purposes.  Pesticide data, and illness and injuries related to pesticide exposure, was under-reported in Imperial County.  Obstacles to pesticide reporting include language barriers, lack of access to medical care, lack of information, lack of awareness of pesticide exposure, and fear of retaliation from employers.  They hosted workshops using pesticide manuals and videos during “train the trainer” trainings for Promotores.  They received positive feedback on the trainings through evaluations.

Questions and Comments from Council Members:

Secretary Rodriquez thanked Chief Fernandez for her presentation. He asked if there is movement in the spread of Zika.  Response:  It is a seasonal disease, but in Baja California there have been three locally-acquired cases, which indicates the disease is moving, albeit very slowly.  Secretary Rodriquez asked: Will there be a follow-up on the pesticide reporting issue?  Response: They want to work with CalEnviroScreen to work on better tracking.  Undersecretary Hoffman asked: What does pesticide illness look like?  Response:  There is acute and chronic illness.  Acute illness can look like rashes, nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea.  There can be a delay in symptoms, which may make the source of illness harder to identify, and the symptoms may abate.  Chronic illness from pesticides is harder to capture, but it does affect pregnant women and children, causing for example learning disabilities in children.

The Council took a five-minute break.

8. Water Issues at the Border

Secretary Rodriquez announced Deputy Director Awinash Bawle of GO-Biz is now present at the meeting.

New River

Jose Angel, Executive Officer of the Regional Water Quality Control Board, presented New River Improvement Project (NRIP) updates.  Last September, the Governor signed $1.4 million dollars towards the design of the NRIP for the trash screen, piping system and pump.  It has been difficult spending the money.  Initially, a sister agency was going to implement the contract but the sister agency had other priorities and the NRIP lost six months of time.  The Regional Water Board then prepared the Scope of Work for a public bid.  They found out Department of General Services is now in charge of the contract.  He was told it will take two months to execute the contract, which is faster than the State Water Board.  But the Regional Water Board made a commitment to see the project through.  The environmental documentation components have a backup plan as well.  His staff and Chair met with City of Calexico, Imperial Irrigation District and Imperial County to discuss ownership, operation and maintenance.  There is a Memorandum of Understanding, and the County has signed it.  They are now waiting for IID and the City to sign it, agreeing to approximately $150,000/year total towards operation and maintenance.  The project is moving forward at a somewhat glacial pace.

Secretary Rodriquez thanked him for his work.

Executive Officer Angel updated the Council on the situation of raw sewage coming across the border from Mexicali.  A meeting was held in San Francisco in April to identify funds for Mexicali to acquire portable pumping equipment.  U.S. EPA and NADB/BECC identified $330,000 to help them acquire pumping equipment to help with the bypasses related to the New River.  Last Friday, the New River received 1 million gallons of raw sewage, which could have been prevented with this new equipment.  In Mexicali, they have an $80 million dollar sewage infrastructure problem.  They are putting together a $20 million application to BECC/NADB to begin addressing this problem, including rehabilitating pumping stations and sewage collectors that are expiring.  We can expect additional bypasses for the next few months.

Questions and Comments from Council Members:

Secretary Rodriquez thanked him for working towards these solutions.

Executive Officer Angel wanted to respond to a previous question about drinking water in canals, and stated that ost of the stories are anecdotal.  The main concern is the water is not disinfected.  The water board does not have evidence there are pesticides in the water, but the main concern is bacteria and pathogens.

Tijuana River Valley Watershed Updates

 Executive Officer Dave Gibson of the Regional Water Quality Control Board presented updates.  He thanked everyone on behalf of the Water Board and the Recovery Team for coming.  On June 21, 2017, the Recovery Team updated the Regional Water Board on the projects they are working on and summarized those updates through 17 presentations.  Recovery Team updates included:

  • Nelson Sloan Quarry reclamation feasibility study applications were submitted.
  • Progress on the hydrology study being conducted by the City of San Diego and the US Army Corps of Engineers regarding sediment and trash interception was presented.
  • Restoration of the Brown Property update was given.

The Board also heard from Border Patrol and the International Boundary and Water Commission (IBWC) regarding several ongoing sewer spills in the main river channel.  A 700,000-gallon spill occurred today in the main channel.  Tijuana has received the capacity to mitigate the problem for spills the size of the February spill but Region 9 continues to receive raw sewage, and they expect to continue receiving large amounts of sewage.  BECC/NADB believe a $200-300 million dollar repair project is needed in Tijuana to achieve IBWC Minute 320 goals.

Executive Officer Gibson plans to recommend creating two Total Maximum Daily Loads (TMDLs) for trash and bacteria/pathogens at the next triannual review.  In the meantime, the regional water board will investigate water quality and sediment in the River Valley under the Port of Cologne authority.  There is a need to intercept trash and sediment in the main channel of the Tijuana River.  The regional water board will continue to engage with Mexico on source control measures, such as the Los Laureles Canyon trash interceptor, but also needs to look at US-side trash and wastewater interception.  There is a large ocean outfall that could convey treated or untreated wastewater during dry weather events.  These solutions would be several years away.

He asked for the Council’s continued leadership to continue to provide support to the regional water board in these efforts.  Thirty percent of Mr. Gibson’s time and 70 percent of his engineer’s time is dedicated to these issues, but they need more support.  He invites the Council to a hearing this fall on feasibility studies, and hopes stakeholders will consider low-tech trash interceptors.  The Recovery Team efforts are making progress, but there continues to be a challenge with cross-border flows.

Questions and Comments from Council Members:

Secretary Rodriquez thanked him.  Undersecretary Hoffman asked what is causing these flows.  Response:  The Tijuana sewage collection system is failing.  The main spill this February was a result of an aging pipeline that collapsed.  In Escondido, during a similar event, they had detection equipment and an emergency response that prevented diverted flows.  In Tijuana, they did not have that capacity or timely response.  It remains a concern of the regional water board.  Liaison Lopez asked if IBWC notified everyone in a timely manner for the recent spill, including Cal OES.  Response:  Executive Officer Gibson said it does appear to have improved, but there continue to be notification issues.  There is a draft protocol, but CESPT and CILA communications are still based on emails.  Liaison Lopez responded that Director Ghilarducci is open to having a scenario exercise to practice better communication protocols.  Response:  The goal has been better stated than achieved.  Secretary Rodriquez said that we need to develop a protocol that does not rely on personal relationships.

Tijuana River National Estuarine Research Reserve updates

Reserve Manager Chris Peregrin from the California Department of Parks and Recreation (State Parks) referred to the Border Relations Council 2016 Annual Report to update Council members on projects at the Reserve and Border Field State Park, beginning on Page 26.

Reserve Manager Peregrin updated the Council on the flooding problem with Monument Road, which is the primary access to the beach.  The sediment is raising the level of the estuary and the road is now the low point.  People walk through the water, which is often sewage-contaminated, causing health concerns.  State Parks has $6 million to update the road and is in the planning phase.  The road needs to be elevated for a 1.5-mile stretch, which is expensive.

The Goat Canyon Sediment Basin has a trash and sediment retention facility that was constructed by State Parks in 2005.  This is a high priority sub-watershed to address.  State Parks has been cleaning the basin since 2005.  In 2013, State Parks won a three-year budget change proposal (BCP) to maintain this, and in 2015, they were awarded another multi-year allocation for two years to maintain this.  The basins are extremely full this year due to the rains.  After the end of next year, they have no funding for 2018 and beyond.

On Page 28, the Nelson Sloan Quarry project is an abandoned quarry that could be used to receive sediment from Goat Canyon and other flood control channels and salt marsh restoration projects.  The Department of Water Resources Proposition 1 Disadvantaged Communities grant is in its final review, which would be used to do final design and environmental review to open the Quarry to receiving sediments.  This would decrease the cost of sediment transport by 50 percent.

Page 29 shows the Tidal Channels of the Tijuana Estuary Restoration Tidal Program looking to the north of the estuary.  Unlike the northern section, the southern part of the estuary has lost all of its tidal channels.  They would like to excavate the sediment out of the channels to help re-establish them.  The Wildlife Conservation Board has allocated money to the Southwest Interpretive Association (SWIA) to restore the southern part of the estuary, which is equivalent to roughly 75 acres of salt marsh.

Questions and Comments from Council Members:

Undersecretary Hoffman asked if there is any chance of getting gas tax funding for Monument Road.  Response:  That is a positive idea, and that may be a good resource as the project needs additional funding of one million dollars to reach completion.  Assistant Secretary De Alba said he would be happy to work with him to find a program in the new Transportation and Revenue package that might help make this work.  Response: The Reserve projects need these opportunities.  Senate Bill 83 opened CalRecycle’s waste tire fund to spend money on solid waste on the border more broadly.  The BCP funding came from that fund, which they would not have had access to before.  That was a good opportunity.  Assembly Bill 965 for Watershed Restoration Grants Proposition 1 program created cross-border watersheds as a priority.  State Parks recently submitted an application to that program to haul the 70,000 yards of sediment and trash that is sitting in the park right now.  This material has a good chance to go to the Nelson Sloan Quarry.  This is an example of being creative with opportunities and State Parks will do what they can to be take advantage of them.  Secretary Rodriquez thanked him for referring to the Report, which is full of good information.

Salton Sea 10 Year Plan

 Assistant Secretary for Salton Sea Policy Bruce Wilcox of the California Natural Resources Agency (CNRA) presented.  A large team of people, consisting of multiple agencies including Department of Water Resources (DWR), Natural Resources Agency, and Department of Fish and Wildlife, worked on the 10 Year Plan.  One of the big concerns with the Salton Sea is that immediate action is needed due to habitat loss and air quality issues.  Fisheries cannot be maintained at the current salinity level.

They have taken a ten-year approach to the Phase 1 set of projects.  The Plan has a Phase 1 set of projects that include looking at longer-term solutions for management, during the second year of the 10-year program.  The main concentration is to focus on the New River East area, which is ready to construct and just needs to finalize the bid.  New River West is almost ready for bid as well.  DWR has design build authority, which allows them to be more flexible with consultants and contractors to put the plan together.  They need guidelines and criteria to identify what to receive from consultants.  They are in the middle of developing a work plan now, and it should be done in October.  They are working with Tetra Tech and looking at hydrology and in-flow.  They anticipate the numbers to decrease slightly.

The Red Hill Bay Improvement Project is underway right now.  There is a salt powder being emitted, but this substance is difficult to control without flooding.  They plan to build shallow water habitat, and the construction has begun.  This is a US Fish and Wildlife, IID and state of California project in a geothermal area where drilling under the habitat is possible.  Another project is the Torres Martinez Wetland Project.  The Salton Sea Authority and the State of California are funding it.  It is a smaller project that they plan to enlarge to 400 acres in size with a water management pond on the north end of the sea.  These are the priorities.

There were originally three exposure models based on the following years: 2003-2017, 2017-2023, and 2023-2028.  They looked at putting water management ponds to pump water from the river and feed it across the beach, and stacking those against the river.  Upon reflection, they want to move the second pond to better gravity-feed the water.  Consultants are currently considering this.  These areas will be intensively managed.  If they could utilize gravity to reduce the need to pump all the water, that would be less costly for operation and maintenance expenses.

Habitat will be built for air quality mitigation, and the water management ponds will help become habitat for fish.  There will be shallow water berms to save money and increase coverage.

Area 1 is permitted and ready to go with a construction start date in 2017.  Torres will be ready at the beginning of next year.  Areas 3 and 5 will come later as they are geothermal and access must be worked on.  In Area 4, there is a lot of habitat and vegetation and trees, so there is less dust in the air.  They are working with a geothermal organization to see if they can work with that area.

What does the long-range plan mean?  It might mean a smaller but sustainable Salton Sea.  There are other avenues to explore – water could be recycled from tertiary treatment plants and put that in the sea.  East Mesa has groundwater.  Several organizations want to bring water from Mexico.  Those options will be explored and they will come up with a longer-term plan on top of this shorter-term 10-year plan.

Questions and Comments from Council Members:

Secretary Rodriquez says it is reassuring there are immediate plans.  Secretary Laird gave an additional comment and stated:  Assistant Secretary Wilcox is doing a great job as he is working on the ground at the Salton Sea, and he gave a good summary of on-the-ground needs.  On the upper levels, funding will be required for these plans.  Through Proposition 1 and an $80 million dollar appropriation, as well as through some federal funding and an MOU signed under President Obama that hopes to produce money over time, and some philanthropic interests, there is only three years of funding through the next Governor’s first term.  There is now a plan and a path, but it will need continued commitment for the second half of the plan to ensure this is achieved.  This is the first concrete plan with genuine steps since 14 years ago.

Secretary Rodriquez is glad to see there is finalized plan, and stated there is a need to think of what we can do during this administration that will help the work continue to the next administration, and that we will move the Salton Sea up on the next Agenda.

International Boundary and Water Commission presentation on the Tijuana sewage spill and subsequent action taken

IBWC Area Operations Manager Steve Smullen gave a presentation on an overview of the spill and subsequent actions and current action.

In February 2017, IBWC received numerous complaints of strong odors in the Tijuana River Valley.  Several requests for communications were made to the Mexican section, but detail was not received until Feb. 23 that a large collector was damaged and bypasses were made to the Tijuana River, which flows across the border into California.  On Feb. 24, Steve Smullen filed a spill report, estimating that 143 million gallons of raw sewage were discharged.  On March 2, US IBWC stated that an investigative report would be issued within 30 days.  On March 9, a binational meeting was held at CESPT offices with Minute 320 Water Quality Work Group members.  CESPT reported that their sewage collector system had suffered damage during December 2016 rain events, with seven separate sewage pipe collapses, six of which were controlled without incident.  The seventh collapse was not.  Collapses happened due to aging infrastructure, hydrogen sulfide corrosion, pressured flow, and grit loading from infiltration.

The collapse of the Insurgentes/Oriente collector was discovered on Jan. 1, 2017.  Work was done the following day to assess the damage, seeing that a significant area was impacted in central Tijuana.  Bypasses were made to Rio Alamar and Rio Tijuana above the confluence.

On Feb. 1, pipe replacement began and lasted until Feb. 4.  CESPT estimated a total of 28 million gallons were bypassed.  However, flow records from IBWC indicate over 256 million gallons of wastewater was not received at wastewater treatment plants during January and February.  Further outcomes include a bus shelter falling into a sink hole/crater at the site.  A repair of the 60-inch line began in March and was completed in April.  They received bypass pumps from the state and bypassed without discharge during this time.

During the meeting, CESPT identified 5 critical areas and 35 other pipeline reaches that are in near-critical condition.  These are pipelines that were installed in the 1970s and 1980s, some as late as 1992.  Their estimate to rehab is $590M pesos or $33 million US dollars.  CESPT noted that they prepared a proposal of emergency declaration to request assistance from the City of Tijuana and CONAGUA. CESPT received approximately $8.2M US dollars to repair work on six collectors, including the Insurgentes/Oriente collector, and to purchase equipment.  CESPT has ordered and received a large truck mounted bypass pump to allow manhole-to-manhole bypasses for future work.  Thus far no additional funding has been made available for Mexico infrastructure improvements.  Work on the six collectors is still in progress and should be completed by November.

The IBWC investigative report regarding the sewage spill was released in early April.  Ensuing action includes:

  • Bypass pumps have been obtained by CESPT and they are trying to obtain a back-up/emergency power generator for pump station CILA through government surplus.
  • Preliminary international communication protocol has been approved by the Commission and is pending an MOU between the State of Baja and Mexican CILA/IBWC. The CESPT protocol to the Mexican section of IBWC is to be signed and finalized by the end of this week.
  • The Tijuana Wastewater Infrastructure Assessment presented on March 9 has been updated by BECC/NADB with additions made by CESPT. The immediate focus is on repair of damaged collectors.
  • There is a need for an upgraded plant in the San Antonio de Los Buenos plant, and construction of a force main at Canyon del Seines. In the medium term, they want to rehab more of the collector system, build a coastal collector to channel flows to Rosarito wastewater treatment plant, and to send reuse effluent to Valle de las Palmas from La Morita and Arturo Herrera wastewater treatment plants (WWTPs) where it will be used for recharge (total estimated cost – $276 million US dollars).
  • IBWC is contemplating a diagnostic of binational diversion and pumping, and exploring alternatives for US/MX infrastructure. The diagnostic may be funded by U.S. EPA and has a complicated Scope of Work.
  • A binational water quality monitoring plan has been endorsed by the Commission with three locations in Mexico and four in the US. They discussed it today in Tijuana on the frequency, historical data, and questions that remain to be answered.
  • The Commission is committed to getting baseline data to enhance work.
  • An agreement has been developed for inspections in the Tijuana River and other locations in the watershed using the BTC Mexicali model with six locations six times per year with a more comprehensive annual inspection.
  • Pump Station CILA has been trying to install a meter by Aug. 31. IBWC will finalize this week an operations protocol for Pump Station CILA.  Mexico will be installing two new flow gauges in the Tijuana River.  As of this time, there are no gauges on the river in Mexico.

Manager Smullen shared overall costs of the master plan in a PowerPoint slide and indicated the collectors are in need of repair.

Questions and Comments from Council Members:

Secretary Rodriquez asked to make sure the slides are available.  Response: CalEPA has the slides and will post them to their website.  Secretary Rodriquez asked:  Have we figured out where the funding will come from?  Response:  No.  CESPT continues to program in their annual budget repair and replacement, but it is not enough to prepare for the rainy seasons that are coming.  Secretary Rodriquez said this is important to the state of California and we need to improve on communications and we want to help move this along.

9. Business and Economic Development at the Border

Deputy Director of International Affairs & Business Development Awinash (“Awi”) Bawle of GO-Biz presented, and reiterated that Director Avdis had spoken the Council previously.

An MOU signed between California and Mexico signed in 2014 mentions the intention to improve cooperation regarding cross-border goods and services movement.  GO-Biz is in charge of carrying out this mandate, which has gathered greater salience given recent rhetoric.  GO-Biz wants to build upon existing initiatives and craft new ones to benefit people and businesses on both sides of the border.

In 2016, GO-Biz worked with Pro Mexico and other partners to cohost a series of summits to strengthen the economic component of cross-border relations.  The events took place in San Diego, Los Angeles, Fresno, Sacramento and Redding, highlighting trade opportunities and regional economic advantages.  40-75 participants attended each event, including business owners and international trade stakeholders (such as members of economic development organizations, which are primary partners with GO-Biz).

In 2017, GO-Biz would like to expand on 2016 activities by targeting sectors of mutual interest.  For example, GO-Biz is working with the California Energy Commission to co-lead a clean technology trade delegation to Mexicali in October to advance collaboration in this sector.  Deputy Director Bawle met with Imperial Valley Economic Development Corporation two weeks ago to strategize on promoting greater commercial collaboration between California, Baja, and Mexicali in healthcare technology and agricultural technology.  This is of interest to Pro Mexico and the Mexican Consulate.  Last week, a biological wastewater treatment technology developer and provider with operations in Realto and Escondido approached GO-Biz last week to ask for their assistance to develop ways to access Mexican market to provide this needed service.  Deputy Director Bawle hopes to report on the successful outcomes of these initiatives at the next Council meeting.  They hope to grow this regional economic cluster at the border as the San Diego-Tijuana nexus is the 50th largest economic cluster in the world.

Questions and Comments from Council Members:

Secretary Rodriquez wants to ensure we continue to make progress in the MOUs signed with Mexico.

10. Federal Government Border Program Updates

Director Hector Aguirre from the U.S. EPA San Diego Border Liaison Office provided an update.

Regarding the Tijuana spill, since the April 19 meeting, the level of interest has been raised at U.S. EPA and the Administrator has requested information about the spill.  Administrator Pruitt is being hosted by Secretary Pacchiano in Mexico City later this month, and they anticipate this topic will be discussed.  EPA is focusing on addressing wastewater collection infrastructure.  Projects are being completed and some are being certified to address needs.  They look for opportunities to co-fund projects.  There are options for funding an infrastructure diagnostic with NADB/BEIF funding and are looking forward to IBWC’s Oct. 17 meeting as a follow-up.

Border 2020 concluded their RFP.  They received over 50 proposals, many thanks to the support of Baja California, federal counterparts, OEHHA, and CalEPA’s Deputy Secretary Alexa Kleysteuber.  Five projects were selected in the California/Baja California region:

  1. San Ysidro Port-of-Entry Community Air Study
  2. San Diego-Tijuana Border Region Open Space Enhancement Program
  3. Evaluating the 2017 Cross-Border Wastewater Spill Sources and Impacts
  4. Waste Collection Network in Mexicali
  5. Reduction of Pollution Generated by Disposable Plastic Bags.

Each project is described in the Border 2020 Update slide presentation on slide 7.

Work plans will now be developed between the BECC and the project sponsors and U.S. EPA anticipates projects will begin implementation later in 2017.  

Questions and Comments from Council Members: Secretary Rodriquez said these projects show the collaboration between U.S. and Mexico partners and collaborative federalism as CalEPA has a good relationship with U.S. EPA.  This list of projects highlights a list of issues we need to continue to address.

11. Mexico Updates  

Director of Environmental Management Saul Guzman from the Secretariat of Environmental Protection of Baja California (SPA) presented.  He gave his presentation in Spanish with translation services provided.

SPA is continuing to work towards solutions regarding used tires. In the past two years, from 2015 – 2017, the City of Mexicali has shred 2 million used tires and sent them to Hermosillo to be used in cement kilns.  They are working with CalEPA and CalRecycle to host a workshop in Mexico on waste management and alternate uses of used tires, and they look forward to setting a date for the workshop soon.

SPA continues to try to increase enforcement and impose penalties on people and businesses for illegal disposal of waste.

SPA is working to ensure the 13 air quality monitors located in Baja California are fully operational to monitor the types of pollutants in Baja.  In Baja in the urban areas, 45 percent of the air pollution comes from the transportation sector, including both passenger cars and hauler vehicles/trucks.

In 2012, a law came into effect establishing the Climate Change Council of Baja California.  In August of this year, the Climate Change Council of Baja California will be officially established.  The goal of the program is to reduce CO2 emissions by 15-25 percent in order that overall global warming does not surpass an increase greater than 2 degrees Celsius.  SPA knows they are behind but they plan to provide information by 2020 and 2030 deadlines.  Overall, Baja California contributes to 3 percent of Mexico’s total greenhouse gas emissions.  The Council will work with the Under2 Coalition and stakeholders in California.

There are three groups in Baja California that handle water issues, which are outside of the jurisdiction of SPA.  SPA continues to monitor the activities of these groups, which includes the IBWC Minute 320 Water Quality Working Group and the Binational Technical Committee in Mexicali.

SPA is working on Baja California’s Smog check program, ensuring vehicles in Mexico are in compliance with the help of California’s smog check program.  They are working to certify automobile shops to do repairs on cars that are not in compliance.

The budget continues to remain an issue, but they continue to work on it.

Questions and Comments from Council Members:

Assistant Secretary De Alba asked if the transportation sector that contributes to 45 percent of the air pollution is from passenger vehicles or haulers/trade vehicles or both.  Response: It is from both passenger vehicles and trade-related vehicles, such as haulers.

Secretary Rodriquez looks forward to working with them regarding Climate Change and these issues.

12. Public Comments           

No comments were made.

13. Adjournment

The meeting was adjourned at 4:17 p.m. by Secretary Rodriquez.

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Draft CMBRC Minutes, July 31, 2017