Under the Dairy Mart Road bridge in San Diego
Under the Dairy Mart Road bridge in San Diego. / Photo courtesy of the International Boundary and Water Commission

Water from a mini-storm on Feb. 15 is still gushing through the Tijuana River, despite rainfall totals of just over half an inch that day. That’s not due to a break in any part of the aging cross-border sewage system. It’s because any water spilled into the northerly-flowing river’s 1,750-square-mile watershed eventually empties out through that small river mouth just south of the Imperial Beach pier. 

Over 1.34 billion gallons of stormwater (often mixed with raw sewage that makes its way into the river) has made its way to the Pacific Ocean since that storm. And it’s still flowing, wrote Morgan Rogers, manager of operations at the South Bay International Wastewater Treatment Plant, in a report Wednesday. 

Another bout of rain is slated to begin late Thursday, which means the Tijuana River will once again swell with rain, mud and whatever else finds its way into the water body. 

Yet, usually every time there is a storm, a key pump in Tijuana, which also helps divert some of that untreated river water and trash from spilling into the U.S. untreated, is switched off by Mexican authorities. That’s simply because there’s too much water for that system to handle anyway, and partly why so much water makes its way into the river. 

The Tijuana River is a seasonally-dry river, meaning it typically flows only during the rainy winter season. But earlier this year, a mysterious problem caused untreated sewage to bypass the cross-border treatment plant and spill freely into the riverbed for 25 days. That spill has since stopped, but it revealed a problem with a key piece of infrastructure on the U.S. side of the treatment plant: A pair of gates have been stuck open for years, meaning the U.S. couldn’t control the flow of sewage to its plant in the first place. 

Now, the International Boundary and Water Commission has the money to fix it. Lori Kuczmanski, a spokeswoman for the agency, confirmed the commission will begin to procure the proper equipment to repair the broken valve this month and, hopefully, it’ll be fixed by March of next year. 

Learn more about the Tijuana River crisis and read our previous reporting here.

Key Balboa Park Group Hires New Leader

Inspiration Point in Balboa Park / Photo by Adriana Heldiz

Balboa Park’s largest philanthropic group will soon have a new CEO.

Forever Balboa Park, the group that resulted from a merger of the Balboa Park Conservancy and the Friends of Balboa Park, announced Wednesday that it has hired the dean of education for the California Academy of Sciences in San Francisco to helm the organization supporters have long hoped could serve as a leader and philanthropic force for Balboa Park.

Elizabeth Babcock, a seasoned fundraiser, now oversees the San Francisco museum and research institution’s educational programs and a $13 million budget. She is set to take the Balboa Park post next month.

As the Union-Tribune reports, Babcock will be focused on fundraising for Forever Balboa Park’s $5 million share of the $21.5 million restoration of the park’s much-photographed Botanical Building. She will also be tasked with helping finalize a long-envisioned memorandum of understanding the organization is now negotiating with the city that would allow the nonprofit to handle park improvements.

More than a decade ago, city leaders and philanthropists founded the Balboa Park Conservancy with a vision to help address the crumbling crown jewel’s myriad problems. Park insiders have long raised concerns about the lack of clear leadership on park issues, duplication of efforts and overhead among various Balboa Park groups and struggles to execute major park initiatives and projects.

The Conservancy and the Friends of Balboa Park merged last year with the goal of doing more to address park needs together.

In Other News

  • The city of San Diego has to pay hundreds of thousands of dollars to cover four city labor unions’ attorney fees after their successful undoing of a 2012 ballot measure that would have wiped out pension funds for all new hires except police officers. That’s on top of the at least $80 million the city has to pay for retroactive pensions and court-ordered penalties after a judge ruled the city should have negotiated the details of Proposition B with unions before placing it on the ballot. (Union-Tribune)
  • North County residents can see smoke from a 600-acre wildfire burning in the Cleveland National Forest, which spans both San Diego and Orange counties. Firefighters had yet to contain the fire by Wednesday afternoon, reports Fox 5.
  • Teachers at Bayside STEAM Academy in Imperial Beach claim they were being recorded by a hidden cell phone in a women-only staff bathroom and filed complaints with the state Department of Fair Employment and Housing. (NBC 7)
  • San Diego police are reporting an uptick in homicides compared to the last two months of 2021 particularly in the Mountain View and Mount Hope neighborhoods and are asking for the public’s help with unsolved murders. (Union-Tribune)
  • Some on San Diego County’s Human Relations Commission, formed to discuss matters of equity and racial justice, are denouncing a fellow commission member for what they say were disparaging remarks about transgender people. Commissioner Dennis Hodges, a nondenominational Christian pastor, refused to resign despite colleagues calling on the County Board of Supervisors to remove him. (Union-Tribune)
  • Rain and cold weather will creep into San Diego late Thursday into Friday with potential snow heading for the mountains. (NBC 7)
  • San Diego State University faculty voted to nix the inclusion of a message acknowledging the land on which the university sits once belonged to the Kumeyaay indigenous tribe in their course syllabi. A civil rights group had complained the requirement to include such a message violated the First Amendment rights of teachers. (Union-Tribune) 

This Morning Report was written by MacKenzie Elmer, Lisa Halverstadt and Will Huntsberry. It was edited by Megan Wood.

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