Friday, May 16, 2008 | The federal government killed the Bajagua Project Thursday, ending one of the region’s most controversial infrastructure projects and leaving the U.S.-Mexico border region without a keystone plan to address Tijuana’s lagging sewage infrastructure.
In the end, Bajagua officials, reviled by environmental activists for their financial ties to Congressional officials, found out their project had been jettisoned nearly 30 minutes after a federal agency notified reporters.
The International Boundary and Water Commission decided to scuttle Bajagua’s proposed U.S.-taxpayer funded sewage treatment plant in Tijuana, instead choosing to upgrade a San Ysidro sewage treatment plant as the means to comply with a federal court order requiring that it meet Clean Water Act standards. The commission, a State Department agency that oversees border water issues, said the San Ysidro upgrade was a more certain plan that would cost U.S. taxpayers less than Bajagua.
The government’s decision brought a swift, unceremonious and expected conclusion to a $539 million private-public venture proposed in 2000 and touted as a complete solution to sewage treatment shortfalls in Tijuana, a city where the overwhelmed infrastructure cannot handle the growing population’s sewage.
“Everybody gave it their best shot on [Bajagua],” commission spokeswoman Sally Spener said, “and there were some hurdles that were not easily resolved.”
The commission had worked cooperatively since 2003 to advance the Bajagua plan, which was originally supposed to be operating by September 2008. Once it became clear the company would miss that deadline, the commission distanced itself from Bajagua. It moved further away after the release of a Government Accountability Office report in late April, which concluded that Bajagua was a more uncertain plan that would cost taxpayers more.