However, that picture takes on a new meaning with the knowledge that the river once held the dubious distinction of being the most polluted river in the nation.
Local, state and federal officials got to see the progress made and the steps still needed to clean up the New River, which runs in the U.S. from the border to the Salton Sea.
The tour was a way to gather stakeholders and show different sites where a cleanup will have an impact, said Miguel Figueroa, executive director of the Calexico New River Committee. It comes ahead of the soon-to-be-released technical advisory report, a strategic plan to fix the river.
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“We finally have a guideline to follow, which is the strategic plan,” he said. “It’s a good plan, but one of the major issues is funding.”
The plan has not been released to the general public as it is going to go before a binational committee for approval. However, members of the technical advisory board have presented some of the proposed improvements, including adding in trash screens at the border and a multimillion-dollartreatment plant near the border.
All of the stakeholders need to find funding to fix the problem, Figueroa said.
“It won’t be easy, but we’ve got the first step done,” he said.
What’s different about this plan is that the Imperial Valley got a seat with other government agencies on how to solve the issue, he said. Because of legislation approved in the 2009-2010 legislative year, it allowed the locals and government agencies to come together.
The group of more than a dozen people visited various sites, including where the New River crosses the border, the state monitoring station, crossing the All-American Canal and the wetlands west of Imperial.
The trip showed that there seems to be a lot of community-driven support that is driving the improvements at the New River, said Arsenio Mataka, assistant secretary for environmental justice at the California Environmental Protection Agency. There’s a lot of work to be done, but some has already started with trash screens and wildlife wetlands. Still more needs to be done to aerate the water and increase wetlands.
“Our office and CalEPA is committed to working with the community as well as U.S. EPA, Mexico, all who want to improve environment and the quality of the New River,” he said. “It’s all our responsibility.”
Staff Writer Elizabeth Varin can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 760-337-3441.