Lt. Governor Newsom endorses legal action to address Tijuana River pollution


State Lands Commission states interest in potential legal action to combat river pollution on California's southern border

SAN JOSE - The State Lands Commission, chaired by Lt. Governor Gavin Newsom, issued a declaration of interest in the efforts announced today by the Cities of Imperial Beach and Chula Vista, and the Port of San Diego, to address Tijuana River pollution that has caused human health problems, threatened local economies, and damaged the area's environment. The Port of San Diego manages public trust lands, under residual and review authority of the State Lands Commission.

"Pollution in our coastal waters poses an unacceptable risk to human health and the environment, while causing economic losses to communities in South San Diego," said Lt. Governor Newsom. "I personally applaud these local authorities for holding accountable those who've failed to comply with requirements to treat wastewater and ensure safe water quality. This is a shining example of the role local government plays protecting the health of California's communities and the environment."

Beaches in South San Diego have experienced an unprecedented number of beach closures resulting from these pollution issues, which also have serious consequences for human health and marine ecosystems. These pollution events are caused by wastewater discharges from the Tijuana River watershed, which is fed by tributaries on both sides of the US-Mexico border.

The International Boundary and Water Commission (IBWC) operates a wastewater treatment plant on the U.S. side of the border to ensure that upstream contaminants are removed from water flowing from the Tijuana River into the Tijuana Estuary and the Pacific Ocean. However, the plant cannot always meet demand because it is believed to be operating below its full capacity, and diversion infrastructure can't always accommodate the volume of incoming flows, resulting in the release untreated wastewater. These discharges have pollutant levels that allegedly violate the Clean Water Act, a National Pollution Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit, and the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act.

The State Lands Commission is responsible for administering the public trust tidelands and submerged lands of the coast and navigable waterways for public benefits like commerce, fishing, navigation, and recreation. The Port of San Diego, which assumes these responsibilities as a trustee of the state, is a party in the Notice of Intent to Sue and has the full support of the State Lands Commission in this action.

The Commission's letter can be viewed here.