S.D. trash plan confounds county (March 2, 2005)

  • Collection basin catches supervisors by surprise

Much to their dismay, county supervisors yesterday discovered that the city of San Diego is planning to build a basin to collect trash and sediment on county-owned property in the Tijuana River Valley.

The Board of Supervisors learned about the city’s plan from a resident during discussions about a triple-fence project along the U.S.-Mexico border.

“I feel pretty safe and comfortable in saying that the Board of Supervisors does not favor putting a liquid waste dump on our property,” Chairwoman Pam Slater-Price said after the meeting. “If it’s such a good idea, maybe the city wants to put it on (its) own property.”

Michael Handal, projects manager for the city’s Engineering Department, which is proposing the basin, said the proposal is only a concept.

The idea is to build a basin on 12 acres across Smuggler’s Gulch, a steep canyon east of Border Field State Park, to trap sediment and trash from both sides of the border. The basin, south of Monument Road, would intercept solid materials, which would either be removed or recycled, he said.

“We’re still looking for funding for this project and eventually will be working with the county of San Diego and other agencies to build it,” he said.

“There’s nothing really other than a concept and when funding becomes available we’ll pursue doing more studies and engineering for the project.”

Handal said the city has had discussions about the proposed basin with employees in the county’s Parks and Recreation Department.

But a department spokeswoman said such discussions never took place.

“We have had general flood control and erosion conversations about the Tijuana River Valley because we share responsibilities in that area, but we’ve never had any specific discussions about the sedimentation basin,” said Amy Harbert, a parks and recreation spokeswoman.

“All I can say in working with the city in the past that we’ve had a very cooperative relationship, and we hope with this project and future projects that we’ll be able to maintain that cooperative relationship.”

Supervisor Dianne Jacob said the city’s proposal is outrageous.

“I was blindsided,” she said. “You don’t plan dumps on other people’s property, at least not without telling them what you have in mind.”

Robert Beken, who informed the supervisors about the proposal yesterday, said he learned about the project at an International Water and Boundary Commission meeting in Imperial Beach in October.

He said Handal gave a PowerPoint presentation on the project. Beken, a security consultant, photographed the presentation. He showed some of the slides to the supervisors yesterday.

“Certainly it’s surprising to me that (the city) would have very sophisticated planning documents all prepared when they’ve not yet contacted us to say, ‘Would you be interested in working on this project jointly?’ “ Slater-Price said.

“It’s very surprising to me that they would take that approach. It seems extremely unsophisticated and rather nervy.”

Supervisor Ron Roberts agreed.

“How it could have gotten this far is beyond me,” he said. “I think it’s a symptom of a very poor management process.”

Source: Daniel Chacon, San Diego Union Tribune