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With signing of USMCA, help is on the way for Tijuana sewage

Deal includes $300 million for remediation
Posted at 6:11 PM, Jan 29, 2020
and last updated 2020-01-30 19:33:14-05

SAN DIEGO (KGTV) -- President Donald Trump signed the renegotiated trade agreement with Mexico and Canada Monday that will replace NAFTA.

The bipartisan deal includes $300 million to help address the frequent sewage spills in Tijuana that contaminate beaches in San Diego’s South Bay.

“It’s a huge win for San Diego and it’s a huge win for our cross-border region,” said San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer, who attended the signing ceremony outside the White House.

Much of the funding will be used to upgrade the South Bay International Wastewater Treatment Plant so it can handle more runoff.

The untreated sludge has plagued San Diego beaches for decades from Imperial Beach to Encinitas, forcing more than 500 days of closures over the last three years.

RELATED: USMCA deal: New trade agreement could address Tijuana sewage spills in San Diego's South Bay

Some environmentalists say the investment is a step in the right direction, but worry the expanded plant could still falter if Tijuana’s population continues to grow.

The plant, known as a primary treatment facility, also won’t improve wastewater runoff to standards in the Clean Water Act, said Imperial Beach resident Baron Partlow.

A delegation of local, state and federal lawmakers from California secured the following provisions to address Tijuana River sewage in the final agreement, according to a statement by Senator Dianne Feinstein's office.

• $300 million for the construction of wastewater facilities along the border.
• $25 million for the EPA’s Border Water Infrastructure Improvement Program, a $10 million increase over last year.
• Authorization for the North American Development Bank to fund additional projects related to water pollution, wastewater treatment, water conservation, municipal solid waste, stormwater drainage and non-point pollution.
• A requirement that the Secretary of State creates an interagency plan to address the effects of toxic cross-border flows on communities in the United States. The plan will include which agencies are responsible and what steps will be taken to ensure it’s a priority for Mexico.
• A requirement that U.S. Customs and Border Protection submits a report on efforts to protect its agents from toxic cross-border flows.
Office of Senator Dianne Feinstein

President Trump made the trade agreement a priority during his 2016 campaign, although trade experts say the impact of the new U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement will be modest, according to the Associated Press.

Canada and Mexico already represent the top two export markets for U.S. goods. But the pact, along with the signing of a "phase one" agreement with China, dials down trade tensions that contributed to slowing economic growth globally.

The leaders of the three nations signed the new pact in late 2018. Legislation implementing the USMCA received overwhelming, bipartisan support in Congress after several months of behind-the-scenes negotiations between Democratic lawmakers and the Trump administration.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.