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January 14, 2013

WiLDCOAST and Assemblymember Ben Hueso Host First of its Kind Delegation to the Tijuana River Valley

Officials Identify Collaboration with Mexico as the Key to Protecting Border Environment

On Friday January 11, 2013 WiLDCOAST and California Assemblymember Ben Hueso assembled a large group of high level state and federal agency directors to tour the Tijuana River Valley and strategize on how best to address the area’s resource management challenges. The day-long tour and discussion achieved a remarkable feat in bringing together key government agencies and decision makers for a first of its kind collaborative effort to protect the globally significant border environment.

"San Diego is fortunate to have one of North America’s most important treasures in its own backyard,” said Assemblymember Hueso. "Being chair of the Water, Parks and Wildlife Committee allows me to continue my work to bring awareness and solutions to the Tijuana River Valley.  It is our responsibility to protect and preserve this natural resource for all generations to enjoy."

The Tijuana River Valley, estuary, and beaches are rich in biodiversity and wildlife and attract thousands of local residents and visitors every year who partake in nature recreation like horseback riding, birdwatching and hiking. The area contains the largest coastal wetland in San Diego County as well as one of the state’s newest Marine Protected Area.  Unfortunately, this South Bay San Diego region has been heavily degraded by flows of sewage, trash and sediment from Tijuana.

"Restoring the health of the Tijuana River Valley is one of our highest priorities,” said David Gibson, the Executive Officer of the San Diego Water Board. “The importance of the valley and the opportunities to attain credible and durable water quality, flood control, and waste management improvements in the Tijuana River watershed is demonstrated by the high level participation in today's tour.”

 Top officials were on hand from State Parks, the California Environmental Protection Agency, Department of Fish and Wildlife, Wildlife Conservation Board, and the Coastal Conservancy. The tour attendees began the day on horseback, exploring the County Regional Park, Border Field State Park and the beach at the Tijuana River Mouth State Marine Conservation Area. The day long tour brought the officials through a diversity of coastal ecosystems including upland habitat, saltmarsh, and sandy dunes.

 WiLDCOAST, a binational conservation organization, helped to lead the tour together with the San Diego Water Board and local resource managers from State Parks. The focus of the tour was on identifying projects and potential legislation to protect and enhance the important natural ecological and recreational value of the Tijuana River Valley.

 “Protecting this significant resource requires a three-pronged approach,” noted Chris Peregrin, State Parks Manager of the Tijuana River National Estuarine Research Reserve. “We need to contain the pollution that is currently flowing into our saltmarsh and ocean, we must stop the problem at the source, and we must restore the areas that have been degraded through time.”

The officials travelled by van to see some of the impacts of sewage, trash and tires in the river valley. They stopped at several areas covered with piles of trash and tires that community volunteers return to every year to cleanup.

 “All of our volunteers, the ranchers, Navy Seals, surfers, students and families, are committed to return year after year to clean-up the valley and protect our beaches,” stated Serge Dedina, Executive Director of WiLDCOAST. “It is our hope that, with the support of the agencies represented here today, someday they won’t have to.”

Here is a photo slide show of the tour with captions.