San Diego Union-Tribune
September 15, 2009
by Janine Zuniga
TIJUANA RIVER VALLEY – The San Diego City Council on Tuesday declared a local state of emergency for the Tijuana River Valley, allowing storm water officials to spend up to $4.4 million to clean out clogged river channels.
However, the city is still waiting for permits for the emergency work from several regulatory agencies, including the Army Corps of Engineers and San Diego Regional Water Quality Control Board.
City officials and river valley horse and property owners hope the permits are issued before the arrival of potentially deadly winter storms.
Rapidly rising flood waters from moderate storms last December coupled with clogged channels and sediment from a nearby border fence project caused the river and its channels to overflow their levees. Horses and goats drowned.
Many worry about local predictions for possible El Niño conditions this winter.
Council members, who voted 7-0 to issue the declaration, expressed their disappointment with the federal government for waiving environmental laws when it built the border fence that lacks drainage and erosion controls.
Councilwoman Donna Frye was absent.
Photographs of the fence built upon a once-wide canyon known as Smuggler's Gulch show the area filled with packed dirt. The earthen slopes were supposed to be filled with vegetation by now, but images show vast swaths of brown dirt.