EL CENTRO — Receiving no response from Governor Gavin Newsom regarding the proclamation of a local emergency for discharge of raw sewage and other pollutants into the New River, the Imperial County Board of Supervisors approved an extension of the local emergency proclamation at their regular meeting Tuesday, February 11.
The proclamation was originally declared November 5, 2019. According to County CEO Tony Rouhotas, the governing board must approve an extension every 60 days.
“This action today is to proclaim the extension of a local emergency for the New River. It has also been requested that we put this on so that it was not forgotten and the importance about how we feel about the New River and our continued support as a County board,” said Rouhotas.
Supervisor Michael Kelley explained the efforts made at the state level by the Imperial County Board of Supervisors, recalling several conversations between the board and Senator Dianne Feinstein. He claimed Feinstein was surprised to learn about raw sewage entering the US through the New River.
“We spoke with Senator Feinstein last year and made her aware. She seemed surprised that sewage was coming to the United States and she did take an active role in the Tijuana River,” said Kelley.
Supervisor Ryan Kelley asked for a request to be sent to Congressman Juan Vargas and Senator Feinstein to take a formal position regarding the emergency at the New River. Imperial County Intergovernmental Relations Director Rebecca Terrazas-Baxter agreed to submit a request to Feinstein and Vargas for their formal positions.
Supervisor Raymond Castillo explained the importance of receiving attention at the New River like the attention received at the Tijuana River entering San Diego.
“Under the agreement that federal government struck, water going into Mexico has to be good quality. Why not insist that same quality of water going into Mexico also returning it to the US be the same quality? For the past several years, they’ve been dumping raw sewage into the New River and a lot of it comes here to the Imperial Valley,” said Castillo.
Supervisor Jesus Escobar discussed the $28 million earmarked for the New River from the State of California and several other potential funding sources. He asked Terrazas-Baxter if extending the proclamation would help the County’s chances of receiving future state and federal funding.
“I think it doesn’t hurt us. I think it does help us to show that we are doing the most that we can to explain that this is a crisis for us and to let the State know that and to let the federal government know that. Part of the reason for initially doing this declaration was to raise awareness and to bring attention to this at the federal level,” said Terrazas-Baxter.