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Despite the embarrassing pleading of the UT editorial board on Monday for the feds to give Bajagua a fat sole-source no bid contract to build a sewage plant in Tijuana, the project is experiencing what the T-1000 in T2 went through after Arnold threw it into the pit of molten steel — dying an ugly death. Of course having the UT plead to the IBWC to give Bajagua a contract would be like having Dick Cheney write you a letter of recommendation to get a job at MoveOn.org — a tragic blunder.

If that wasn’t bad enough, according to the UT’s Mike Lee, during the September 14 court hearing on the existing International Wastewater Treatment Plant’s ongoing violations of the Clean Water Act: “U.S. District Judge Barry Ted Moskowitz left in place a September 2008 deadline for the International Boundary and Water Commission to fix the pollution problem created by its wastewater treatment plant in San Ysidro.”

That means, unless Bajagua builds their plant in less than one year, their project is dead. Finished. Muerto. Finis. Kaput. Dude — it’s over.

Meanwhile, plans for building an alternative treatment plant on the U.S. side of the border that would cost $500 million less than Bajagua are moving forward. And the alternative publicly funded project has the political support in the U.S. Senate that Bajagua does not have. Here is the UT again.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., said she supports putting $66 million toward the San Ysidro facility next year — enough to get the roughly $100 million retrofitting project well under way. Her position is important because she sits on the Senate Appropriations Committee, which is negotiating next year’s budget with the House. “I believe it presents the best opportunity for dealing with Tijuana River pollution,” Feinstein said in a statement sent yesterday to The San Diego Union-Tribune. At this point, there are simply too many unresolved questions about the Bajagua proposal,” she said. “We simply cannot afford to wait any longer on the assumption that the Bajagua plan will work out.”

More than 19 organizations including some of the U.S. and Mexico’s most influential environmental groups signed onto an August 20 letter to Feinstein supporting the alternative treatment plant. Some of the groups included the Natural Resources Defense Council, Heal the Bay, Defenders of Wildlife, The Ocean Conservancy the San Diego Chapters of the Audubon Society and the Sierra Club and the Coronado Surfing Association (I also signed onto the letter for WiLDCOAST).

The Bajagua team — Jim Simmons, Enrique Landa, Gary Sirota, Craig Benedetto and Marco Gonzalez — can’t seem to get a break these days. They’ve lost their support among the feds in the Senate and among enviros. Lee also reported that: “Bajagua’s preconstruction process in Mexico has not gone smoothly. Yesterday, company officials blamed the boundary commission for suspending work on the project. That status discourages construction companies from preparing bids for the job, Bajagua officials said.”

What corporation in their right mind would make plans with a company that has to depend on the IBWC and a federal judge to obtain a contract? Isn’t the point of the private sector to find customers on the open market and sell them a product? Where do judges and federal agencies fit into Adam Smith’s great big plan? What business school you have to attend to learn to write business plans like that at?

I can only imagine what Bajagua’s elevator pitch is these days, “Bro — if the judge grants an extension, and these fed dudes in El Paso approve our project, we might just have a killer sewage plant in TJ for you to partner with us on.”

In the meantime, sewage-polluted water continues to foul the waters of Imperial Beach. Over Labor Day weekend scores of surfers reported stinky water. And last Friday and Saturday the entire beachfront stunk, according to one observer, “like a dead seal.” One surf mom reported finding a condom in the water. Most likely the pollution was coming from the Punta Bandera sewage river miles south of the U.S.-Mexico border — a problem Bajagua would never solve. Can you say quagmire?

— SERGE DEDINA

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