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We must protect San Diego’s beaches

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Corey Gustafson is a university lecturer and co-founder of Dogleg Brewing Co. and a native San Diegan. He is running for Representative Scott Peters to represent the 50th Congressional District.

On July 30, two pipelines run along the Matadero Canyon in Tijuana broke due to poor repair. These pipelines, intended to carry wastewater to the San Antonio de los Buenos Aires sewage treatment plant, instead spilled into the Smuggler’s Gulch Canyon reservoir south of San Diego. Because the wastewater contained enormous amounts of sediment, it was diverted to San Diego’s South Bay International Wastewater Treatment Plant (SBIWTP). The SBIWTP could not handle the large amount of bilge water. Waste water spilled into the ocean and landed on our beaches.

As a result, Coronado and Imperial Beach were forced to close their beaches on August 3. As residents of these communities know, both spills and closures have had a negative impact on their way of life for many years. Beaches continue to be closed due to high levels of bacteria, including Silver Strand coastline.

Over the past decade, San Diego residents have suffered illness from swimming and surfing in toxic water, and tourists who come to spend their hard-earned money enjoying our southern beaches, one must often look for other alternatives. Frankly, shutdowns have become too commonplace and our federal representatives too complacent to reverse the toxic tide. Mexico’s failed attempts to fix its sewage sewage treatment plants, combined with the practice of dumping sewage into the Tijuana River and the open ocean, have led to a number of beach closures. The crisis has worsened to the point that the South Bay sewage treatment plant must treat an astronomical 50 million gallons of sewage from Mexico every day.

In 2019, the United States and Mexico agreed to include $300 million in trade agreement for the Water Board’s Infrastructure Program to repair sewage treatment plants in San Diego and the South Bay. Members of Congress fully acknowledged the potential influx of federal money and declared the problem solved in 2019.

To date, three years later, San Diego hasn’t seen a dime of that money yet.

In an unfortunate bureaucratic maneuver that only Congress could have foreseen, the law required that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) authorize the sending of funds to the International Boundary and Water Commission (IBWC). Then – and only then – can San Diego County get those already allocated funds to finally clean up our ocean.

Simply put, Congress must approve the transfer of money from one government agency account to another. By transferring these funds to the relevant authorities, the 300 million dollars that have been lying in the state bank account for three years can be used to solve this crisis.

Instead of insisting that aid go directly to the IBWC, Congress voted for legislative wording that led to a three-year delay in sending much-needed funds to stop pollution on our beaches.

This mess reflects the bureaucratic and legislative incompetence of the federal government in Washington.

One of the main reasons our federal government is no longer functioning properly is because Congress has abdicated its oversight role as the branch of government that controls the federal purse strings. Instead of determining how the money should be spent and quickly handing it over to the appropriate agencies, Congress handed over the responsibility to the executive bureaucracy. Congress must now pass another law that would allow the transfer of funds.

The pollution of our beaches has gone on for far too long. It is a symbol of government failure in San Diego, California and Washington, DC. We see the failure of our government to provide basic services all the time. From constant power outages to California’s lack of water infrastructure, homelessness out of control, and the failure to protect our beaches from sewage, San Diegans can take a lot.

If we don’t change the broken leadership, what incentive do our representatives have to do better?

San Diegans are tired of excuses from career politicians. If we want problems to be solved, we must hold our representatives accountable for their failure to solve our problems.

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