Surfrider and Wildcoast, along with three citizens’ groups, have challenged county supervisor Greg Cox over funding for a campground included in a state bill the groups supported. The groups are asking that the $1.6 million allocated for developing a campground in the Tijuana River Valley — a longtime project of Cox's — be committed to projects to control sewage in the river valley.
Todd Gloria makes the case for stopping trans-border water pollution into I.B.
An email from Daron Case, who heads Coronado Residents Against Poop, accuses Cox and two legislators of a “bait and switch” tactic, pointing to a video by assemblyman Todd Gloria that promises state commitment to dealing with sewage issues.
Case’s group describes the proposed campground as “Camp Crap” because of its proposed location.
The bill in question, Senate Bill 507, was signed by governor Jerry Brown on October 6th. Its sponsors, state senator Ben Hueso and assemblyman Todd Gloria, directed $500,000 of bond money designated for state parks so it could be used to pay to update a five-year-old study on how to control sewage and contaminated water that enters the river valley from Mexico.
“Addressing and mitigating transboundary sewage pollution is a priority for south San Diego communities,” states the letter signed by clean-water groups Wildcoast and Surfrider, along with three citizens groups. “We believe the funds would be more appropriately spent on issues that would remedy the sewage problem, as permitted under this new law.”
In a written response sent November 15th, Cox explained that the money came from funding dedicated to parks.
“Taxpayer money dedicated by the voters for a county park is not the proper funding source for an international water pollution prevention and treatment project,” the letter states. Cox’s response also reminds the groups that he led the county to taking part in their anticipated lawsuit against the federal government over the sewage issues and that he has long advocated for the river valley.
It’s not immediately clear why the group is targeting Cox, rather than Gloria and Hueso, who authored and sponsored the bill. Gloria’s video appears to be particularly aggravating to the citizens’ groups. Staffers from the state offices expressed their disappointment with the attack, saying that they had been very transparent — holding eight public hearings — and that the bill language was formalized more than six weeks before the bill was signed.
The $2.1 million being divided up came from money generated by a 1988 state parks bond that dedicates the bond's money to buying land in the river valley to expand the park. Legislature staffers say they worked closely with the legislature's legal advisers to stretch the definitions of how the bond money could be used to include updating the sewage control study — which is not entirely park use. Diverting $500,000 of parks-bond money to deal with an international sewage problem stretched the legal definition of what the bond money could be used for about as far as possible, they say.
But Paloma Aguirre, coastal and marine director for Wildcoast, said that nothing in the bill language restricts the money to the campground, though she agrees spending is restricted to the river valley. Her reading of the bill suggests that the county has discretion over how the remaining $1.6 million is spent.
"We are not against campgrounds — we promote access to the outdoors, especially in underserved communities we represent," Aguirre said. "We think the county can do more with the money — it's everyone's responsibility to address these issues that affect the communities [Cox] serves."