Dredging In The Tijuana River Valley...A Snapshot of Big California Government and Politics

By LCR Contributor Barrell Rider

The City of San Diego has agreed to a ninety thousand dollar settlement to a lawsuit with San Diegans For Open Government. The lawsuit claimed that San Diego Municipal workers illegally dredged the Tijuana River Valley in an attempt to decrease flooding in the area.

The city declared a state of emergency in the Tijuana River Valley twice, first in September 2009 and again in October 2010. The state of emergency declaration was clearly an attempt by the city to expedite the dredging process to protect people, livestock and property in the area. Massive amounts of toxic bacteria and trash had also been washed into the Tijuana River Valley over many years.

According to the City of San Diego, it was in the best interest of the taxpayers to settle the case, which included attorney’s fees for the plaintiff. Under the settlement, the city must obtain a coastal development permit from the California Coastal Commission and perform an environmental review for dredging that was already performed under two emergency permits. The city will also have to conduct an environmental review.

It seems that in the future any similar issues will no have to go through the typical red tape and politics that come with any endeavor requiring California Coastal Commission approval. I can only wonder what additional costs the city could bear in addition to the actual settlement. I’m sure there will be many permits and associated fees with any California Coastal Commission.

The City itself is not without blame. They neglected to clean the riverbed for several years resulting in buildup of debris and levees in the area were not maintained and failed.

The cost and time involved with an environmental report will undoubtedly be inefficient and expensive. Consultants will have to be hired, additional plans designed and the approval process by the California Coastal Commission.

I can only speculate on the motives of the plaintiff in this suit. According to all reports the city conducted the dredging in accordance with standard practices. It seems that any dredging conducted by the city did not have any adverse effects on the local ecosystem.

The Tijuana River Valley is located in very close proximity to Mexico and around 30 families live in the area, one of the low-lying areas in the border region. The 1,700 square miles of watershed along south San Diego County and northern Baja California, Mexico contains a mixture of agricultural fields and livestock ranches.

Many who live in San Diego County may be familiar with the problems associated with the Tijuana River Valley. The area experienced bad flooding in 2005, 2008 and 2010. The severe floods resulted in massive property damage including loss of crops, goats and horses.

The situation in the Tijuana River Valley illustrates just how ineffective, inefficient and ridiculously bureaucratic the government in California has become. Terrible fiscal mismanagement and prioritization by elected officials have led to the inadequate maintenance of much of the state’s infrastructure. The myopic visions of environmental activists, impractical implementation of regulation and goliath reach of government entities such as the California Coastal Commission have created a perfect storm, which stifles the service, safety and growth of Californians. The Tijuana River Valley itself is a microcosm of the structure and culture of California politics as related to environmental issues.

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