A few weeks ago I had the opportunity to tour San Quintin Bay with my WILDCOAST colleagues through the invitation by Terra Peninsular, a conservation organization who has helped to conserve much of the bay. We had a great time and were also able to sample the delicious sustainably harvested oysters of Francisco Aguirre and his family. San Quintin is a center for the oyster harvest in Baja (along with Laguna San Ignacio). Congratulations to Terra Peninsular for their effort in preserving such a unique and delicate area that is in such great shape.
If the multiplicity of agencies working along the U.S.-Mexico border from both the U.S. and Mexico did their job, there would be little trash, sediment and waste tires in the Tijuana River. Unfortunately most look the other way until they are pressured to clean things up. Now WILDCOAST is pressuring agencies to clean up the river before winter or more unusual summer rains happen.
One of the great fallacies about dealing with untreated wastewater is that solutions require huge government investments in giant and expensive centralized sewage treatment plants. But not only is this not a solution in the cities of the developing world (because those plants can’t treat sewage for people who aren’t hooked up to the sewage line), but when those plants break down, there are major problems with sewage spills and then polluted waterways and beaches.
Tijuana has historically been unable to deal with its high volume of wastewater due to its rapid growth and difficult terrain. Tijuana has relied on the U.S. for must of its wastewater treatment infrastructure. In the past 20-30 years Tijuana has built a series of small-scale treatment plants.
In the late 1980s, a group of conservationists in Mexico and the U.S. developed a small-scale decentralized project, Ecoparque, in eastern Tijuana that was designed to treat wastewater and reuse it for gardens, compost and even wetlands. The project was built and treats sewage from a nearby neighborhood, but because of the inability of agencies to think outside the box beyond giant projects, more Ecoparques were not built.
I recently toured the Ecoparque facility in Tijuana. It is being upgraded and expanded by COLEF in Tijuana and has the potential to serve as a great model for other low-cost and simple wastewater treatment projects that can provide much needed water for community gardens, wetlands, native plant restoration projects, and native plant nurseries. Additionally it can provide low-cost compost for all of these activities. Back in 1987 or 1988 I volunteered for a day on the construction of Ecoparque. I had also volunteered for the construction of the first module that was tested in the Tijuana River Valley on the U.S. side.
At the end of the day, the current model of mid to large treatment plants is not a solution. They are too expensive and too centralized. Projects like Ecoparque should be the future. After all, not a single drop of wastewater, especially in our climate and with this drought, should ever reach the ocean.
These photos were taken at a sewage gulch at the south end of Baja Malibu or Campo Torres on July 23, 2014 (same beach different development). The sewage is released from a development east of the coastal toll road. WILDCOAST is following up with CONAGUA and PROFEPA in Mexico to file complaints. Residents complain of foul odors, fouled ocean water and tons of mosquitoes.
On Saturday March 22, 2014 young surfers from Mexico and the U.S. gathered in San Miguel, Baja California to participate in the 4th Annual Walter Caloca Surf Contest. Organized by Alfredo Ramirez and United Athletes of the Pacific Ocean (UAPO) with the help of Zach Plopper and WILDCOAST/COSTASALVAJE, the event provided a forum for young surfers to rip 2-4′ waves and celebrate international friendships. Additionally, Day 1, included the SUP and bodyboard divisions.
It was a great day. Day 2 on March 23, is the open event. The photos here are all from Day 1.
A couple of day’s before Christmas we celebrated my oldest son’s 18th birthday with a day-trip out to Baja’s Todos Santos Island. It was a magical day in a very special place.
For those of you wondering about the toll road closure from La Fonda to San Miguel (northern end of Ensenada). I traveled on the La Mision-San Miguel free road twice in the past week. Expect the trip to take 30-45 minutes depending on traffic. Don’t try to pass on curves, don’ expect to travel more than 25-35 mph on average. Just enjoy the scenery and be safe. Get used to it because we’ll all be traveling that road a lot.
My estimate is that 75% of the free road could be widened with little enviro-social-and economic impact within the existing highway/utility easement which is very wide. The exception is the La Mision section and hill which is incredibly dangerous anyway and areas near businesses and homes.
The fact is that the entire Ensenada community needs to pressure federal and state governments to quickly expand and make safer the free road and then seriously make an attempt to address the shocking underinvestment in upgrading the safety of the toll road area that collapsed. Anyone who traveled that road knew that authorities were making a less than stellar effort to improve the highway.
Laguna San Ignacio whalewatching guide and fishermen extraordinaire, Francisco “Pachico” Mayoral, passed away recently. He was a longtime friend to me and my wife Emily and to generations of scientists and conservationists in Laguna San Ignacio. To me he will always be the “Profesor de la Laguna.”
Emily and I met Pachico and his wife Carmen at their lovely house on the shoreline of Laguna San Ignacio on our first day in the field there when we arrived in October 1993 to carry out our dissertation research on gray whale conservation and fishing and ecotourism.
Pachico played a major role in uncovering the plans by ESSA/Mitsubishi to build a $180 million salt facility on the shore of Laguna San Ignacio, when he gave me and Emily the blueprints to the project in early 1994. We later informed Homero Aridjis of the Grupo de los Cien about the proposed salt project who initiated a major campaign to stop it. It was a courageous act on the part of Pachico considering that he lived in a wooden shack with sand floors at the edge of the Lagoon and wasn’t the least bit politically connected.
It was never quite clear to me how he obtained a fresh set of blueprints for the project since he didn’t drive much, had no telephone and his only way of communicating with the outside world was via radio and his pickup that seemed to be in need of repair more than it was roadworthy.
Whether he was assisting scientists or conservationists or inspiring his sons to continue the family business of conservation and ecotourism, Pachico’s insights into the Lagoon, the wildlife there (of which he was a keen observer) and its need for protection were invaluable.
And we could always count on Pachico to provide a moving and inspiring quote about the need to conserve the Lagoon and its whales to the New York Times, LA Times and NBC News among other media outlets from around the world that featured his inspiring message of the need to live in harmony with whales and nature.
Here is a video from NBC Nightly News with Maria Celeste where Pachico was the subject of a story about “Making a Difference.”
Mayoral said the gray whales, once hunted nearly to extinction, have much to teach humans about resolving conflicts. After all these years, he marvels how the curious cetaceans behave, the mothers sometimes boosting their calves out of the water so tourists can scratch their heads or rub their baleen gums.
“They were attacked by men and yet they look to get closer to people,” Mayoral said. “That is a great lesson for all of us.”