Just yards from the border, east of Gran Plaza Outlets, Calexico held a groundbreaking ceremony, Friday, May 26, to open the site of The New River Improvement Project.
The New River crosses from Mexico northward through the city of Calexico, to the Salton Sea and is considered one of the most polluted rivers in the nation due to trash and waste from municipal, agricultural and industrial pollutants.
The project aims to address these environmental issues afflicting the New River through infrastructure improvements that will have many positive effects, especially for nearby residents who may be bothered by the scent that blows from the river.
As stated in a press release by the California Environmental Protection Agency, The New River Improvement Project consists of three primary components:
· Construction of a trash screen at the International Boundary with Mexico.
· Diversion and encasement of the river from a point downstream of the International Boundary to a point downstream of the eastern boundary of Calexico to bypass the populated southern area of the city.
· Construction of a pump-back system to take treated wastewater from the existing City of Calexico Waste water Treatment Plant and discharge it into the New River channel at a point near the proposed river diversion and encasement structure.
“The New River Improvement Project in California’s desert border region is a monumental move toward the commitment of improving environmental health in one of California’s most vulnerable populations,” said City of Calexico Mayor Raúl Ureña in the press release, Friday.
“The West Side of Calexico, up by the riverbanks, where migrant attempts to swim across waters too polluted for Customs Officers to enter are a common occurrence, where runoff from the international economy seriously pollute this river; a truly binational effort to improve water quality gains traction for a better and more just Calexico border region,” said Ureña.
Speakers at the ceremony were passionate in their words for a better Calexico, but expressed their determination in seeing this project through.
“We’re not going to stop there, we know there’s much work to do…much ahead from today…we have a responsibility to make sure that this area, is one that has life, that has economic opportunity…and that those younger than us don’t have to deal with the same problems we have for the past 50 years, this work is for them,” said Assemblymember Eduardo Garcia who extended his thanks towards Governor Gavin Newsom for the nearly $48 million in investments from the state of California.
Deputy Assistant Secretary with the California Natural Resources Agency, Amanda Martin shared the Governors firm stance on supporting The New River Improvement Project.
“This project demonstrates the effectiveness when local and state government work together to support California communities…amidst all the other budget proposals, I distinctly remember Secretary Crowfoot saying to me ‘Amanda, the governor wants this, let’s make it happen’…that is why I’m so proud it be here today, to see something from just the very initial paper, to turning dirt, that is awesome,” said Martin, explaining that even after the pandemic, when so many other budgets had to withdraw, the New River Improvement Project stayed a priority.
Council Member Gilberto Manzanarez shared that along with the infrastructure improvements, some community amenities will be added near the area in the form of expansions to the River Parkway. These plans currently include adding a soccer field, basketball courts, a softball field, and bike trail to circle the many amenities that will be constructed for the community’s enjoyment.