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Environmentalists joined Mayor Jerry Sanders earlier today at a press conference to tout their support for the mayor’s proposed water and wastewater rate increases.

Sanders has proposed rate increases of 29 percent for water and 35 percent for wastewater over the next four years to fund hundreds of millions of dollars in maintenance to the two systems. The systems have struck settlements with state and federal regulators over the city’s failure to comply with health and environmental laws.

Marco Gonzalez, an environmental lawyer representing the Surfrider Foundation’s San Diego chapter, and Bruce Reznik, executive director of San Diego Coastkeeper, said the rate increases will help pay for sewer upgrades required under the terms of a settlement with the city. (They were also joined by Jim Peugh, conservation chairman of the San Diego Audubon Society, who was not a party to the suit.)

Surfrider and Coastkeeper sued the city in 2001 under the federal Clean Water Act, seeking to reduce the city’s sewage spills. They have decreased more than 80 percent since then.

“We’ve gotten the easy pipes,” Reznik said. “Now we’ve got to go in and get some of the tougher ones.”

Gonzalez called the rate increase “one small step” in improving the city’s sewage infrastructure.

“It’s time to dig deep,” he said. “It’s time to recognize that for more than 30 years we’ve ignored our infrastructure, our conveyance system, our sewage pipes.”

San Diego City Council is scheduled to vote Monday on the proposed increases.

ROB DAVIS

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