The International Boundary and Water Commission said today it is scuttling the Bajagua Project and will instead proceed with an upgrade to an existing sewage treatment plant in San Ysidro.

The move effectively kills the controversial Bajagua project, pending any legal appeals on its behalf.

The commission, a U.S. State Department agency, said it will improve the San Ysidro sewage plant’s treatment levels, which currently fail to meet federal Clean Water Act standards. It had previously been working with Bajagua, a private San Marcos company, to build a major sewage treatment plant in Tijuana.

In making its decision, the commission cited two factors: Cost and timing. Upgrading the existing plant would be the fast and cost-effective way to meet a federal court order compelling compliance with the Clean Water Act, the commission said in a news release.

The move had been expected since the release of a Government Accountability Office report April 24, which concluded that Bajagua was a more uncertain plan that would cost more. The study drew no conclusions about Bajagua’s cost-effectiveness, as the private company’s plant would have been built to treat as much as 59 million gallons daily.

The commission has $66 million in hand to finance the upgrade, which it was prohibited from pursuing pending the GAO report. President Bush’s 2009 budget includes a commission request for the additional $28 million needed to pay for the upgrade.

Upgrading the San Ysidro plant, which handles sewage from Tijuana households, could be complete by January 2011, the commission said.

“Our design will be completed next month and Congress has already appropriated funds for the project,” IBWC Commissioner Carlos Marin said in the release. “We are ready to move forward with construction to complete this upgrade as soon as possible.”

We’ll have more on this later.

ROB DAVIS

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