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The Bajagua Project LLC has received approval to use about 80 acres of land in Mexico to build a sewage treatment plant that would increase Tijuana’s ability to treat wastewater.

The approval, which came from the Mexican section of the International Boundary and Water Commission, authorizes Bajagua to lease land in Mexico for 30 years at a cost of about $60,000 annually, Bajagua officials said.

While company officials welcomed the news, the project’s future still rests in a judge’s hands.

The private San Marcos company will not meet a court-ordered September 2008 deadline to expand and improve treatment at a San Ysidro plant that handles 25 million gallons of Mexican sewage daily. The U.S. government has suspended its activities with Bajagua as it awaits word from a federal judge who will decide in September whether to extend the company’s timetable.

Bajagua officials said the lease addresses one of the many criticisms that has been leveled against the project: That it has lacked any significant endorsement from Mexican officials.

“This shows that Mexico does support it and that we can get it done,” Bajagua spokesman Craig Benedetto said. “From our perspective, this is a huge step in moving this project forward.”

Bajagua aims to expand the plant’s capacity and improve the level of treatment. But its cost to American taxpayers still remains a mystery. The company missed a May 2 deadline to execute a contract that would have divulged that information.

ROB DAVIS

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