A sewage collector underneath the U.S.-Mexico border / Photo by Adriana Heldiz

The federal government has pledged $300 million to the intractable border sewage problem, which allows millions of gallons of untreated sewage to pour into the Pacific Ocean.

But a local company is proposing a partial solution, MacKenzie Elmer reports in a new story, in hopes of getting a piece of that federal funding: building a water recycling facility at the border to capture all the sewage that an existing South Bay plant can’t handle when it rains, so it can treat the sewage and turn it into drinking water for a region that needs it.

Why would you throw it away when you can sell it?” said Kurt Tetzlaff, president of the company, WinWerks, which pitched its idea this month to the International Boundary and Water Commission.

San Diego is already investing $3.5 billion in a project to reclaim the city’s wastewater and repurpose it as a local source of drinking water. This wouldn’t provide nearly as much water, but the water it would provide could still be cheaper than water we currently import from the Colorado River, and it could prevent some untreated effluent from flowing into the Pacific, Tetzlaff said.

Another company on the Mexico side of the border is pitching its own plan with a similar premise. The group, Comice, wants to build a series of pump stations and treatment plants to divert water from further east, to a purification plant south of the city. It says its plan could be done for way cheaper – $80 million all in – and could capture 80 percent of the effluent before it heads to the ocean.

“What we’re proposing in Tijuana is cheaper, more certain and solves the water problem,” said Ruben Garcia Fons, a member of the group.

City, State Laying Down New COVID Rules

Most Californians now have a curfew. Gov. Gavin Newsom’s office on Thursday announced a limited stay-at-home order mandating those who live in areas already under significant restrictions who do not have essential jobs remain at home from 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. starting Saturday until Dec. 21. The Associated Press has more details. 

“The virus is spreading at a pace we haven’t seen since the start of this pandemic, and the next several days and weeks will be critical to stop the surge,” Newsom wrote in a statement. “We are sounding the alarm.”

In a Thursday press conference of their own, county officials said they will be cracking down on San Diegans and local businesses that violate public health orders.

They announced that eight sheriff’s deputies will begin laying down the law on egregious violations of health orders full time and that District Attorney Summer Stephan and San Diego City Attorney Mara Elliott have promised to prosecute violators.

“Right now, this pandemic is a runaway train that is barreling across our nation, and across our state, and across our county,” Supervisor Greg Cox said. “We need to slow it down.”

Indeed, as the Union-Tribune noted,Thursday marked the sixth straight day with more than 700 new cases in the county.

Sheriff Bill Gore said deputies will also begin enforcing health orders in cities such as El Cajon, where cases have spiked but police enforcement has not.

“We’ve always had the authority to do this, but now the problem has reached a magnitude where it’s imperative to do something,” Gore said.

-The Union-Tribune reports that a San Diego Superior Court judge is expected to rule Friday on whether local restaurants and gyms forced to shutter their indoor operations amid increased state restrictions can resume those operations.

School Is Stopped, But the State of the District Is ‘Unstoppable’

Unstoppable. That’s the word Superintendent Cindy Marten chose to describe the state of the district during her annual speech this week.

VOSD’s Will Huntsberry assessed the state of the district – and the context behind Marten’s comment – in this week’s Learning Curve, noting that traditional education has, in fact, halted for San Diego Unified while other local districts have managed to help students get back to classrooms part-time.

Huntsberry also offered insight on the spending plan Marten and others are lobbying President-elect Joe Biden’s transition team to consider.

Final County Redistricting Commissioners to Be Selected

On Friday, the initial eight members selected at random to be part of the San Diego County Redistricting Commission will meet and select the remaining six members of the commission.

More than a dozen community organizations, including the Partnership for the Advancement of New Americans, Alliance San Diego and Mid-City CAN, sent the commissioners a letter earlier this month raising concerns over the lack of diversity on the commission so far.

Of the eight commissioners selected, all but two are White. “In a majority-minority county that is less than 50% non-Hispanic White, a lack of representation on the commission from the diverse racial, ethnic, immigrant, and refugee communities who live and work throughout the county would be unacceptable,” the letter reads. “Fortunately, you have the power, and the legal obligation, to rectify the dramatic underrepresentation of these communities in the applicant pool and in the random drawing when you make your determinations regarding the final six commissioners.”

The eight commissioners were selected at random from a group of 60 applicants who met all the necessary qualifications. 

The commissioners can’t use exclusively race to determine the remaining members, but can include it as a factor. The goal is to have a commission that is representative of the county’s electorate in many ways, including race, geographic location within the county, political leanings and more. The commissioners must also have relevant experience, analytical skills and the ability to be impartial, according to the Elections Code.

News Roundup

  • Earlier this week, county health inspectors threatened nearly 30 businesses with criminal prosecution for ignoring public health orders and posted their names on the county website in an apparent effort to be more transparent, the Associated Press reports. By Thursday, more than 50 businesses had received cease and desist orders. Meanwhile, the county is continuing to battle Voice of San Diego, KPBS and The Union-Tribune in court in an effort to avoid releasing more details on coronavirus outbreaks. 
  • Republican Mayor Kevin Faulconer, who has panned Democrat Gov. Gavin Newsom over his decision to dine maskless with a group at a pricey restaurant, told Los Angeles Times columnist Steve Lopez that he is “absolutely considering” a run for governor. Faulconer also criticized the governor’s coronavirus response in an interview with Politico and said he is having “a lot of positive conversations” about a potential gubernatorial bid.
  • In the last decade, the county has assembled four climate action plans – and KPBS reports it’s still working on the latest version leaders hope will pass legal muster.
  • Annual holiday event San Diego Bay Parade of Lights has been canceled due to the pandemic, NBC 7 reports.

The Morning Report was written by Lisa Halverstadt, Andrew Keatts and Maya Srikrishnan, and edited by Sara Libby.

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