CALEXICO – Severely polluted by discharges of wastes from domestic, agricultural, and industrial sources in Mexico, the New River has been of great concern to residents who live near it and have sought a solution for numerous years.
Armed with much-needed answers and solutions, Assemblymember Eduardo Garcia (D-Coachella) held a New River Improvement Project Strategic Plan meeting at the Carmen Durazo Cultural Arts Center Thursday evening with a proposed plan that will finally alleviate unhealthy living conditions.
“The New River is one of the most polluted rivers in the nation,” said Garcia. “Today I share a proposed project that awaits your (residents’) feedback that is very important and some consensus around it in order for us to continue to advocate with the Governor’s office and CAL EPA to get to a point where we identify the funds and get to a phase of execution and construction. We want to hear your constructive input. We recognize that many of you have been here for a long time and we know there is frustration.”
The New River Improvement Project Strategic Plan update consists of installing an underground conveyance pipe to move the New River Water from the border area to wetlands that would be established west of Highway 98 and installing a second underground pipe diverting water back into the river using higher-quality water from Calexico’s wastewater treatment plant in addition to installing a trash screen at the border starting point to prevent debris from entering into U.S. territory.
“I want to thank you for all of your efforts in resolving this issue with the New River that has been long overdue,” said Emma Silva, a resident.
“In 1986 I was one of the residents who first moved to Calexico Street and clearly remember the New River problem already existed back then,” said Ciro Calderon, a resident and Calexico school board president. “On behalf of myself and the CUSD, I would like to say that I am glad that Assemblymember Eduardo Garcia is not only proposing a solution but putting it on paper, and when the work is completed we will be forever grateful.”
Pollution sources of the New River include untreated municipal sewage primarily from Mexicali, trash, treated and untreated industrial discharges, treated effluent from municipal waste-water treatment plants, urban storm drainage, and a variety of agricultural irrigation runoff from both sides of the border. The river has historically contained pathogens that cause tuberculosis, encephalitis, polio, cholera, hepatitis and typhoid, all flowing in untreated water through the cities of Calexico, Seeley and Brawley.
“This problem has existed for over 60 years and I’m glad the stars are finally aligning for the New River,” said John Renison, District 1 supervisor for Imperial County. “It’s gratifying to finally hear some good news, especially for those who live on Calexico Street and Grant Street who are the most affected.”
The New River originates in Mexicali, approximately 15 miles south of the International Border and flows north into the U.S. through Calexico, passing through the Imperial Valley and then draining into the Salton Sea, some 66 miles north of the border.
“This is exciting,” said Garcia. “We will finally get to a point to see some dirt being moved and some improvements of the river and the opportunities that come from that which are improving public health, economic development of this city and the overall well-being of the folks in this area.”
According to an official from the California Regional Water Quality Control Board, the proposed plan, along with community input, will now be presented to the California-Mexico Border Relations Council for consideration and approval.
Additionally, the City of Calexico is also currently administering $4 million in State and Federal grant funds to design, engineer and permit a river parkway project along the New River that would include a 1.5 mile bike lane.