Calexico New River Committee
Advancing Health and Wellness: The New River, which flows from Mexicali, Mexico into Imperial County has been characterized for decades as the most polluted river in North America. According to the U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services, ingestion and dermal exposure to New River water poses a serious threat to public health. In 1999 the Calexico New River Committee, Inc. (CNRC) was established by a group of concerned citizens with the vision of eliminating the negative public health and environmental impacts of the New River on Calexico. The CNRC’s conducts public education, citizen awareness and advocacy campaigns that provide the necessary tools and funding for comprehensive planning to find a solution for removing the hazardous threat of what is essentially an open sewer line through the heart of Calexico. CNRC also seeks to increase public participation in local, state, national, and bi-national efforts to reduce or eliminate adverse environmental and human health impacts from New River pollution.
Description:For decades, there have been fragmented efforts by our community to address this problem, but the Imperial County has not had the economic or political clout or the community organization power to bring expedient solution to the issue. In 1999 the Calexico New River Committee, Inc. (CNRC) was established by a group of concerned citizens with the vision to eliminate the negative health and environmental impacts of the New River, obtaining a private non-profit corporation status in 2001. The CNRC has one paid staff member, with an eleven member volunteer unpaid board membership who are active participants in the CNRC’s key activities.
CNRC’s Mission: To enhance the social, political, and economic climate of the City of Calexico and the Imperial Valley by enclosing/piping the New River from the International Border through the City of Calexico; thereby providing residents, visitors, and our international neighbors with a safe and healthy environment.
The CNRC’s core operations revolve around the implementation of education, awareness and advocacy campaigns that help provide the necessary tools for planning that will lead to finding a solution to removing the hazardous threat of having an open sewer line, the New River. The organization also seeks to increase public awareness, support, and participation in local, state, national, and bi-national efforts to reduce/eliminate adverse environmental and human health impacts from New River pollution. These efforts include the need to advocate and drive for New River legislative policy change. More information about the CNRC and the bi-monthly newsletters are available at www.calexiconewriver.com.
On August 31, 2010 the City of Calexico and CNRC signed a Memorandum of Understanding, the purpose of this agreement is to coordinate the cleanup, regulation, administration, improvement, restoration, and management of the New River as it passes through Calexico. The City of Calexico and the CNRC recognize that this agreement is intended by both parties to define an administrative process and facilitate cooperation among them to the greatest extent possible, but most importantly this agreement memorialized the great working relationship spanning for over 10 years.
The CNRC works directly with the Westside residents of Calexico and the rest of Imperial County. For example these efforts can be reflected through the CNRC Community Survey Report conducted in 2005-2006, reaching out door to door to learn about the daily encounters residents have with the river. The Westside residents of Calexico are severely impacted by the New River as it passes 1/4-1/8 mile from their backyards. The CNRC continued to harness the collaborative partnership with the Westside cluster through this community project.
The CNRC was recipient of the “2010 Freshwater Protection and Restoration Achievement Award” presented by Environment Now as part of their “6th Annual Top Achievements of the Environmental Community in Southern California.”
Other qualifications possessed by the CNRC include being an affiliate with:
• New River Technical Advisory Committee (TAC) Member (2010-Present)
• Imperial County Environmental Justice Enforcement Task Force Member (2009-Present)
• U.S. GSA’s Community Representative Committee (2007-Present)
• Colorado River Citizens’ Forum Member (2007-2011)
In March 2010 City of Calexico officials and the CNRC traveled to Washington D.C. to meet and present a status report on the New River Improvement Project to, Senator Dianne Feinstein, Senator Barbara Boxer, Congressman Bob Filner, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, U.S. Customs and Border Protection, United States Border Patrol and the U.S. Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works.
The City of Calexico and CNRC possess a rich history of cooperative partnerships with elected officials at the local, state, and federal level representing the County of Imperial in addition to the following government and non-government agencies:
Efforts with Government Agencies and Policy Work
The City of Calexico and the CNRC have collaborated with state and federal officials to harness enthusiastic support from the community and have marked major milestones toward a viable solution:
• A feasibility study for an encasement project was done in 2001, and a request for Congressional authorization for the “Calexico New River Encasement Project” was submitted in the 2003 Water Resources Development Act through a coalition of local organizations, including the County of Imperial, the Regional Water Quality Control Board, the Imperial Irrigation District, and the Congressional Task Force on the New River. The feasibility study for the encasement project was done in collaboration with the City of Calexico and the California Regional Water Quality Control Board Colorado River Basin Region 7 (RWQCB), and is based on the “New River pollution Abatement Report Recommended Projects for RWQCB – Region 7, December 1987.”
• On February 17th 2005, Senate Bill (SB) 387 was introduced by Senator Moreno-Ducheny on behalf of CNRC. The language seeks to classify the New River as an “urban creek” (not being a natural waterway) in order to allow for encasement of the New River as it flows through Calexico.
• In 2007 congress passed the Water Resources Development Act; at the request of Congressman Bob Filner, two authorizations concerning the New River were included:
for $10 million for wastewater infrastructure, including a wastewater disinfection facility and polishing system, to improve water quality in the vicinity of Calexico. However, it is important to note that the Water Resource Development Act is an authorization bill only. Appropriations for projects authorized under this act must come from the annual Energy and Water Appropriations bill, no appropriation has been made to date.
• In April of 2010 the City of Calexico received a $400,000 grant from the State Water Resources Control Board to create the recently concluded New River Improvement Strategic Plan called for in AB 1079 (ongoing grant).
• AB 1079 (Chapter 382, Statutes of 2009) required the California Mexico Border Relations Council (“Border Council”) to develop a strategic plan to “study, monitor, remediate and enhance the New River’s water quality to protect human health, and develop a river parkway suitable for public use and enjoyment.” The New River Improvement Project (NRIP) Strategic Plan was formally approved and released to the public on May 25, 2012 by the California Mexico Border Relations Council in Calexico, CA. The vision of the Plan is that “The New River is a healthy river corridor that serves as an asset to the people, communities, ecosystems and agricultural industry of the Imperial Valley.” The Plan also establishes a set of overall goals and specific “solutions” for improving public health, ecological restoration and economic development.
Mission Support Grant Application Video
Mission Support Grant Award Video
- Newsletters and latest news
- New River PBS Documentary
- Fox News Report on New River
- KSWT 13 News “Not So New River”
- Calexico New River Committee DVD 2008