Authorities closed a stretch of beaches near the border because of sewage contamination from the Tijuana River. Photo courtesy of County News Center

A coalition of San Diego County elected representatives introduced a bill Monday to address water pollution along the U.S.-Mexico border.

The Border Water Quality Restoration and Protection Act would designate the Environmental Protection Agency as the lead coordinating federal, state, and local agencies’ efforts to build and maintain infrastructure projects aimed at reducing pollution along the border.

The bill was introduced by Reps. Juan Vargas, Scott Peters, Mike Levin, Sara Jacobs, and Darrell Issa, representing San Diego County’s five congressional districts, as well as Rep. Raul Ruiz, whose district covers the Coachella Valley.

The bill is companion legislation to another bill introduced last week by Sens. Dianne Feinstein and Alex Padilla, which also seeks to improve water quality in the Tijuana and New rivers.

“The biggest challenge in addressing this environmental and public health crisis is that a majority of the pollution results from transboundary flows,” Vargas said. “Addressing cross-border pollution in our region requires strong communication between agencies — from both sides of the border.”

Peters said, “Sewage discharge in the Tijuana River Valley has been a decades-long public health and environmental catastrophe for San Diegans and those in Coronado. One of the largest barriers we face in fixing the problem is that everyone points to someone else when decisions need to be made. This bill puts the EPA in charge and provides the accountability this crisis requires to force a real and meaningful solution that engages both Mexico and our local partners to put an end to this pollution.”

The legislation is supported by the California Environmental Protection Agency, California Natural Resources Agency, San Diego and Imperial counties, the cities of San Diego, Imperial Beach, and Coronado, Chula Vista Mayor Mary Casillas Salas, the Port of San Diego, the San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce, and WILDCOAST.

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