Of­fi­cials be­gin process of clean­ing up New River

Imperial Valley Press - - FRONT PAGE - BY ED­WIN DEL­GADO

CALEX­ICO — Lo­cal, re­gional and state of­fi­cials took the first step to­ward the long re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion of the New River on Mon­day.

The city of Calex­ico, the county of Im­pe­rial and the Im­pe­rial Ir­ri­ga­tion District re­cently ap­proved a me­moran­dum of un­der­stand­ing be­tween the three for the po­ten­tial op­er­a­tion and main­te­nance costs re­lated to New River Projects af­ter they’re com­pleted.

Al­though the project has yet to get un­der­way, the Cal­i­for­nia En­vi­ron­men­tal Pro­tec­tion Agency through the State Water Re­sources Con­trol Board asked the three lo­cal en­ti­ties to com­mit to take re­spon­si­bil­ity for the op­er­a­tion and main­te­nance costs of the project af­ter it gets done.

The re­quest made by the Cal EPA was for one of the lo­cal agen­cies to claim own­er­ship of the fa­cil­ity af­ter its com­ple­tion, a com­mit­ment none of the agen­cies wanted to barely solely, so in­stead en­tered col­lec­tively.

All three agen­cies agreed to pro­vide up to $50,000 per year, each, for op­er­a­tions and main­te­nance costs of the project each, start­ing at the com­ple­tion of the project.

“We are grat­i­fied that another im­por­tant mile­stone is met in our in­ces­sant ef­fort to im­prove pub­lic health and the so­cial and en­vi­ron­men­tal am­biance in our com­mu­nity,” said Calex­ico Mayor Mar­itza Hur­tado.

By ex­e­cut­ing the agree­ment at the lo­cal level, the state will move for­ward with award­ing a $1.4 mil­lion con­tract to an en­gi­neer­ing firm to de­sign and ex­e­cute an en­vi­ron­men­tal re­view for the New River Im­prove­ment Project - con­struc­tion is ex­pected to cost ap­prox­i­mately $20 mil­lion.

Chair of the Colorado River Basin Re­gional Water Qual­ity Con­trol Board Nancy Wright said the con­tract for the first phase should be awarded in the next cou­ple of months, then it will take ap­prox­i­mately a year to fi­nal­ize per­mit­ting, en­vi­ron­men­tal re­views and de­sign of the project for which con­struc­tion could first get un­der­way at the end of 2018 or early 2019.

“We will be do­ing ev­ery­thing we can in our power to make sure this project is ex­pe­dited,” Wright said dur­ing Mon­day’s cer­e­mony.

The New River Im­prove­ment Project in­cludes a trash-col­lect­ing screen near the point where the river crosses the in­ter­na­tional bor­der, an un­der­ground seg­ment of the New River in which water will flow through a con­veyance pipe from a point near the in­ter­na­tional bor­der up north to High­way 98.

“We are grat­i­fied that another im­por­tant mile­stone is met in our in­ces­sant ef­fort to im­prove pub­lic health and the so­cial and en­vi­ron­men­tal am­biance in our com­mu­nity.” Mar­itza Hur­tado, Calex­ico mayor

The project also in­cludes a park­way along the New River in the vicin­ity of the Calex­ico Waste­water Treat­ment Plant, water from the plant will be used to fill the riverbed in or­der to have clean water along the park­way.

“It’s a plea­sure to be here to­day … the peo­ple of Calex­ico have waited decades, not years but decades for this,” said District 1 Su­per­vi­sor John Reni­son who rep­re­sents Calex­ico. “We’re elated, we’re happy and per­son­ally I’m over­joyed, but our work is not done it’s only the be­gin­ning.

The next step in the process is to be­gin seek­ing fund­ing op­tions for the full project once de­sign and en­gi­neer­ing are com­pleted.

Gov. Jerry Brown pre­vi­ously signed Se­nate Bill 5, co-au­thored by Se­nate pres­i­dent pro tem Kevin de Leon and Assem­bly­man Ed­uardo Gar­cia. SB 5 is a $4.1 bil­lion park bond that has ear­marked $10 mil­lion for the New River and $190 mil­lion for the Sal­ton Sea. The park bond will go be­fore the state voter as part of the June 2018 bal­lot.

State of­fi­cials are still try­ing to iden­tify other po­ten­tial funds to com­plete the project.

Cal­i­for­nia En­vi­ron­men­tal Pro­tec­tion Agency Sec­re­tary Matthew Ro­driquez, who was in at­ten­dance on Mon­day, re­called when he first vis­ited the river af­ter be­ing ap­pointed to his cur­rent role that lo­cal of­fi­cials warned him to avoid any con­tact with the New River.

“We can’t have that in Cal­i­for­nia, that’s not an ac­cept­able sit­u­a­tion,” Ro­driquez said. “This is the first step but is a very im­por­tant step and I will urge the com­mu­nity to con­tinue to work to­gether and con­tinue to present a united front.”

IM­PE­RIAL VAL­LEY PRESS FILE PHOTO

An empty plas­tic gal­lon lays on the chem­i­cally pol­luted bank of the New River in Calex­ico.

Calex­ico Mayor Mar­itza Hur­tado holds up the signed MOU to the pub­lic dur­ing the sign­ing cer­e­mony at Nosotros Park in Calex­ico. Di­rec­tor of Com­mu­nity and Eco­nomic De­vel­op­ment Miguel Figueroa (left) for Calex­ico, to Hur­tado’s left Pres­i­dent of the IID Board of Direc­tors Bruce Kuhn and Chair­man of the County Board of Su­per­vi­sors Michael Kel­ley. ED­WIN DEL­GADO PHOTO

IM­PE­RIAL VAL­LEY PRESS FILE PHOTO

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