Starting today, September 12, the sediment piled up in Goat Canyon's enormous basins will be removed, thanks to a $1 million state-budget award in June for Border Field State Park.
The three-year project calls for the removal of about 100,000 cubic yards that were previously removed from the basins; how much depends on the coming rainy season, according to acting reserve manager Chris Peregrin.
A Lakeside-based contractor will begin hauling away the approximately 30,000 cubic yards that have accumulated in the basins. The contractor will then remove at least 10,000 cubic yards from the total 130,000 cubic yards in the park.
The abundant sediment and trash come into the canyon from the part of the canyon in Mexico, where it's called Los Laureles. Although the movement of some amount of sediment is a natural process, what Peregrin described as "rapid and unconventional urban development" of the canyon stripped it of the things that would prevent erosion. The problem isn't new —Peregrin said the stuff started coming in at least 15 years ago.
"It became a problem as the population started growing in Tijuana," he explained. "The sediment is primarily coming from poverty-stricken areas."
In 2005, the Imperial Beach nonprofit Southwest Wetlands Interpretive Association — cofounded by local environmental hero and veterinarian Mike McCoy — oversaw the construction of the enormous basins that fill with sediment every rainy season. Keeping the stuff from the northwest out of the estuary helps keep the estuary alive.
Officials in Tijuana, along with local environmentalists, binational groups like WiLDCOAST and San Diego-based groups including Surfrider are all working together to reduce the amount of trash and sediment originating upstream.
But no one wants the sediment that's been collected, which is composed mainly of fine silt. So, it has stacked up inside the park in two enormous piles, which are reputedly the equivalent of two football fields stacked 60 feet tall.
The three-year contract will allow the park to start pricing the full removal of the piles, Peregrin said. The first step is testing it for contaminants and heavy metals, which would drive up the price for disposing of it.
"We don't know yet where it will be dumped," Peregrin said. "It depends what the prices for exporting it will be."
revised 9/13, 12:55 p.m.