On March 2nd the California Assembly Select Committee on California-Mexico Bi-National Affairs, chaired by Assemblymember Jose Medina, convened a binational dialogue aimed at improving water quality in the Tijuana River, which runs along the California – Baja California region. Assemblymember Medina also chairs CSG West’s Border Legislative Conference, as such, CSG West staff provided support and assisted with the participation of Baja California officials.
The dialogue was prompted by a California budget allocation of $20 million to the State Water Resources Control Board for water quality projects in border rivers. The funding sets priority for binational collaborative projects where another government, including identified Mexican multi-level governments, commits to provide funding. It also requires consultation between the executive and legislative branches; consistency with CalEPA Border Affairs Program; collaboration with governments on both sides of the border; and allows for expenditures in Mexico, so long as the actions provide water quality benefits in the border rivers of California.
The dialogue provided an opportunity for participating legislators and other officials to discuss how California and Baja California can build on existing relationships to create a collaborative process that addresses water quality in the Tijuana River, as well as weighing priorities for jointly expending California’s $20 million budget allocation.
Also accompanying the Baja California delegation was Gustavo de la Fuente, Director, Office of International Projects at PROBAJA. Jose Flores Bringas, Adviser to the Committee on Border Affairs & Migration for the Baja California Legislature. The Consulate General of Mexico in Sacramento provided invaluable assistance with coordination and logistical support.
Participating speakers who provided updates included:
- Francisco Bernal Rodríguez, Secretary, Secretaría para el Manejo, Saneamiento y Protección de Agua de Baja California
- Joaquin Esquivel, Chair, State Water Resources Board
- Bidtah Becker, CalEPA Deputy Secretary for Environmental Justice, Tribal Affairs and Border Relations
- Celeste Cantu, Chair, San Diego Regional Water Quality Control Board
- Dr. Humberto Marengo, Deputy Director-General, CONAGUA (remote)
- Martha Guzman, Regional Administrator, US EPA Region 9
- Tomás Torres, Director, US EPA Water Division, Region 9
- Honorable Nora Vargas, Supervisor, County of San Diego (remote)
California legislators present for the dialogue included:
- Assemblymember Jose Medina
- Assemblymember Christopher Ward
- Assemblymember Richard Bloom
- Assemblymember Eduardo Garcia
- Assemblymember Steve Bennett
- Senator Ben Hueso
Baja California legislators present for the dialogue included:
Consulate General of Mexico in Sacramento staff present for the dialogue included:
- Martin Alcala, Alternate Consul
- Raymundo Mancera, Economic Affairs
- Didya Fong, Political Affairs