Environmentalists oppose campground in Tijuana River Valley

SAN DIEGO -- Officials from Surfrider Foundation San Diego and other environmental advocacy groups called on the San Diego County Board of Supervisors Tuesday to postpone construction of a campground at the Tijuana River Valley Regional Park.

Supervisors allocated $12.8 million for the campground in the recently passed budget for the new fiscal year, but activists claim continuous sewage spills along the Tijuana River pose health risks for potential visitors.

Bethany Case with the Surfrider Foundation and co-founder of the South Bay Clean Water Movement, said the time is not right for a campground.

"This area is beautiful. We would love to have a campground here -- but we need to solve this problem first," she said. "Where are you going to go to the beach, ... you're going to go to water that's contaminated. It just doesn't make sense."

According to Surfrider, the closest beach to the proposed campground, the Tijuana Slough Shoreline, closed for 167 days in 2017 due to poor water quality related to sewage flows that have plagued South Bay waterways for decades. The beach has closed 64 days so far this year.

Case was joined at a news conference Tuesday by members of Citizens Against Sewage, San Diego County Democrats for Environmental Action and the National Border Patrol Council, as well as former Assemblyman Nathan Fletcher, who is running for a District 4 supervisor seat that includes much of the city of San Diego.

Fletcher said the benefits of outdoor recreation in the Tijuana River Valley are negated by its condition. He called on county officials to better protect the area's natural resources.

"To wash your spirit clean by enjoying our amazing beaches -- you need beaches that aren't closed by contamination and pollution," he said. "It's time for the county of San Diego to step up its commitment for clean water. It's time for them to start cracking down on polluters. It's time for them to be a leader in calling for the federal government to take action."

Campground construction is expected to begin summer 2019.

Supervisor Greg Cox has long advocated for construction of the Tijuana River Valley campground. In a statement, he said "if our technical studies find that this is not a suitable location for a campground, then we will look for other appropriate sites."

In May, the Surfrider Foundation filed a 60-day notice of intent to sue the International Boundary and Water Commission, a binational agency charged with overseeing efforts to stem ongoing pollution. The foundation argued the commission hasn't done enough to address water infrastructure that has allowed millions of gallons of sewage to flow into the United States.