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General Press Releases

Port of San Diego Declares Local Emergency, Reinforces Support and Solidarity in Tijuana River Valley Pollution Crisis

As environmental champions and in solidarity with coordinated regional efforts, the Port of San Diego has declared a local emergency related to the ongoing Tijuana River Valley pollution crisis. The declaration follows similar actions by the cities of Imperial Beach and San Diego, and the County of San Diego.

“Clean water and clean air are basic quality of life expectations and are needed now in our South Bay. After many years of deteriorating conditions, we are now seeing some steps in the right direction. Recently, we learned of $156 million in critical annual funding secured by Congressman Scott Peters for the South Bay International Wastewater Treatment Plant. With our emergency declaration and continued regional collaboration, the Port of San Diego will continue to push for additional funding to ensure this public health, environmental, and economic crisis is solved,” said Chairman Frank Urtasun, Port of San Diego Board of Port Commissioners.

Over 100 billion gallons of untreated sewage, toxic chemicals, trash, sediment, and other pollutants have flowed into the Tijuana River Valley and out into the Pacific Ocean off the coast of Imperial Beach. This is causing serious public health issues from polluted waters and airborne toxins, ongoing beach closures in Imperial Beach and Coronado, and negative impacts on the South Bay economy. Contaminated flows are directed through treatment plants under the jurisdictions of the U.S. and Mexico federal governments. However, these facilities have failing and aging infrastructure. The U.S. International Boundary and Water Commission (IBWC) operates the South Bay International Wastewater Treatment Plant (SBIWTP), and additional funding is needed to improve and expand the plant. Under Minute 328, Mexico is to replace the broken Punta Bandera Treatment Plant in Tijuana at the San Antonio de los Buenos Creek.

“The Port of San Diego is on the front lines of this fight as the state’s trustee for beach and submerged lands in Imperial Beach,” said Commissioner Dan Malcolm, Imperial Beach’s appointee on the Board of Port Commissioners. “This crisis is sickening our South Bay communities and our beaches have been closed for nearly 850 days and counting. This environmental and public health nightmare must end! Our emergency declaration is a statement that we are still in this fight, and we will not stop advocating for every dime that is needed to STOP THE SEWAGE once and for all.”

The Port of San Diego regularly collaborates with its partners to advocate for federal funding and legislative action, participates with other federal, state and regional stakeholders in the federal Eligible Public Entities Coordinating Group (EPECG) led by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and supports recent air monitoring efforts in the South Bay by the San Diego County Air Pollution Control District (APCD). Recent, major advancements include:

  • March 2024: $156 million secured in the IBWC’s annual budget by Congressman Scott Peters as part of the final Fiscal Year 2024 Appropriations package. It remains to be determined how much of that funding will be allocated for rehabilitation and expansion of the SBIWTP. The package also includes language breaking a policy logjam that has prevented non-federal funds from contributing to the rehabilitation and reconstruction of the SBIWTP. This language may help unlock other funding streams to support upgrades and expansion for the SBIWTP.
  • January 2024: The Mexican military began reconstruction of the Punta Bandera Treatment Plant in Tijuana. This infrastructure project is one of many identified in the Minute 328.
  • June 2023: The EPA and the IBWC signed a Record of Decision (ROD) finalizing the environmental review phase under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) for projects to reduce transborder water pollution. The ROD enables the EPA and IBWC to proceed to the design phase for projects included in the binational Minute 328 and Statement of Intent, using $300 million appropriated by Congress through the U.S. Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA).
  • August 2022: Statement of Intent and Minute 328 signed under the USMCA. These binational agreements between the U.S. and Mexico federal governments committed each country to infrastructure projects on both sides of the border. The U.S. committed $330 million, and Mexico committed $144 million.
  • April 2022: Historic settlements announced in lawsuits filed by the Port of San Diego, cities of Imperial Beach, Chula Vista, and San Diego, California San Diego Regional Water Quality Control Board, California State Lands Commission, and Surfrider Foundation, resulting in the IBWC agreeing to diligently mitigate water that flows across the border and regularly share information with stakeholders on its progress.
About THE Port of San Diego

The Port of San Diego serves the people of California as a specially created district, balancing multiple uses on 34 miles along San Diego Bay spanning five cities. Collecting no tax dollars, the Port manages a diverse portfolio to generate revenues that support vital public services and amenities.

The Port champions Maritime, Waterfront Development, Public Safety, Experiences and Environment, all focused on enriching the relationship people and businesses have with our dynamic waterfront. From cargo and cruise terminals to hotels and restaurants, from marinas to museums, from 22 public parks to countless events, the Port contributes to the region’s prosperity and remarkable way of life on a daily basis.


Port of San Diego Environment champions the safekeeping and environmental care of our diverse ecosystems. Year after year, environmental goals are set and measured to evolve environmental initiatives – ensuring San Diego Bay remains a vibrant resource and contributes to a remarkable way of life for visitors and residents for generations to come.