Will Politics Jeopardize Access to the California Coastline

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This op-ed originally ran in the San Diego Union-Tribune on Feb. 4, 2016.

Each Thanksgiving week, my family and I load up our car with surfboards and drive north along the Pacific Coast Highway to spend the holiday with my brother and his family in San Francisco.

396673_309927975787691_1312602472_nHeading up that coastal road past emerald coves, perfect waves, elephant seals and sea otters is absolute nirvana.

Our annual family adventure reinvigorates my love and appreciation for what author David Helvarg calls our “Golden Shore,” where “wilderness cliffs and sea cliffs contrast starkly against the dazzling bright silver sea.”

485030_309927669121055_1576734659_nGrowing up in Los Angeles during the 1960s, and Imperial Beach during the 1970s, the son of European immigrants who escaped the horrors of World War II, my family reveled in the freedom of the wide-open and friendly beaches of California.

We took our first camping trips at Carlsbad State Beach, Mission Bay and among the redwoods and wild beaches of Big Sur.

Later, as a college student, I worked as an ocean lifeguard and witnessed firsthand how the 1,100 miles of open, accessible shoreline in California is our great melting pot where we come together as families and friends and share in the moments that create lifelong memories.

Thankfully in 1972, Californians had the foresight to ensure the fundamental right of everyone to access to the coast when they approved the California Coastal Conservation Initiative and the creation of the coastal commission. No other government body in the world plays as important a role in ensuring that every citizen, not just wealthy oceanfront property owners, has access to the beach.

Jumping off of the rocks at Steamer Lane.

Jumping off of the rocks at Steamer Lane.

Today, the Coastal Commission helps cities like Imperial Beach plan for the future and prepare for rising seas and a changing climate.

The coastal commissioners who are appointed, and the professional staff that advise them, balance coastal development with the need for clean air and water, wildlife protection and open space for Californians and millions of coastal visitors to picnic, camp, surf and enjoy a great day at the beach.

Dr. Charles Lester currently oversees the commission.

Through his training as a geochemist and attorney and with a doctorate in political science, Lester is uniquely qualified to oversee the protection of California’s coast.

Last year I observed him firsthand at a forum at UC Irvine on the challenge of sea level rise in California. I came away deeply impressed with Lester’s commitment to successful, adaptive and innovative problem solving for the significant and costly issue of coastal erosion.

It was as apparent then, as it is to me now, that Lester has the vision, expertise and leadership skills to guide the commission and our coastline into a climate-challenged 21st century.

Unfortunately, a group of commissioners, largely appointed by Governor Jerry Brown, who originally championed the development of the Coastal Act, are seeking to fire Lester.

These political appointees want to dismantle our strong and independent Coastal Commission, which puts the public good above private profits.

Not only is that bad for our ability to enjoy our coastline, but a threat to transparency, good government and democracy in California.

I hope for the sake of present day Californians who experience the best days of their lives on our shoreline and future generations who have yet to experience the thrill of their first day at the beach, that Governor Brown reigns in the forces that seek to eliminate our access to, and enjoyment of, our “Golden Shore.”

We cannot afford to play politics with California’s fragile coastline, which gives so much enjoyment to so many.

DSC_1449Note–on February 10, 2016, in an event now called the “Morro Bay Massacre”, Charles Lester was fired in a 7-5 vote of the California Coastal Commission

 

WILDCOAST INAUGURATES PHOTO EXHIBIT IN CUBA, “CONSERVATION TREASURES OF MEXICO”

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In July, WILDCOAST partnered with the Embassy of Mexico of Cuba and Patrimonio Comunidad y Medio Ambiente to inaugurate a photo exhibit at the Sala de Diversidad in Havana, Cuba. The exhibit that will run through the September highlights the conservation success stories of WILDCOASTDSC_0206 in Mexico featuring stunning images by Claudio Contreras, Dr. Octavio Aburto of the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, Miguel Angel de la Cueva and Ralph Lee Hopkins. Photos featured globally significant sites that WILDCOAST works to conserve including Cabo Pulmo, Oaxaca, Bahia Magdalena and Valle de los Cirios Pacific Coast. On hand to open the exhibit were Executive Director Serge Dedina, Mexico Director Eduardo Najera and Communications and Policy Director Fay Crevoshay.DSC_0207

“We are grateful to the Embassy of Mexico in Cuba for sponsoring this exhibit and their role in fostering international cooperation to help preserve the world-class coastal and marine ecosystems in Mexico and to partner with the Cuban National Park Service to assist in the preservation of world-class coral reefs and mangrove lagoons,” said Dedina. “This was an incredible opportunity to highlight our work and we were so pleased that Ana Lourdes Soto Perez, President of Patrimonio Comunidad y Medio Ambiente agreed to host the exhibit in the Sala de Diversidad in Old Havana, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.”


IMG_1329The WILDCOAST exhibit is being showcased to the growing numbers of  tourists who visit Old Havana which now officially includes Americans, due to the recent opening of relationsbetween the U.S. and Cuba. “We were very happy to work with the Mexican government to highlight the conservation successstories in Mexico to help increase awareness in Cuba about the importance of continuing to preserve globally important coral reefs. Sites like Jardines de la Reina in Cuba, like Cabo Pulmo in Mexico, are considered among the world’s most successful marine reserves. It is important to continue to collaborate internationally together to help preserve them.” 

As part of the trip to Cuba, WILDCOAST staff presented papers at the International Congress on Conservation and Sustainable Development in Havana. Then they visited Guanahacabibes National Park in the southwest corner of the island, which includes the pristine Maria la Gorda coral reef. “It was amazing to dive the reef and see how pristine it is,” said Najera. During their visit, WILDCOAST staff met with high level Cuban National Park Service officials as well as a visiting delegation of officials from the NOAA and the U.S. National Park Service. 

Thanks to the support of a generous donor, WILDCOAST is launching a Cuba Conservation Initiative to support efforts to preserve globally important coastal and marine ecosystems in Cuba. “Our first effort will be to bring Cuban park staff from Guanahacabibes to Cabo Pulmo to learn

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Mangle es Vida: Music for Relief, Linkin Park and WILDCOAST Partner to Protect Mangroves and our Oceans

Dave Farrell, Chester Bennington and Mike Shinoda of Lincoln Park.

Dave Farrell, Chester Bennington and Mike Shinoda of Lincoln Park.

Linkin Park has always been one of the world’s most iconic, innovative and groundbreaking bands. In 2005, the influential artists started their philanthropic arm, Music for Relief (MFR) to help respond to the devastating tsunami in Indonesia.

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Here’s more on the MRF history and mission:

Since inception in 2005 Music for Relief has raised over $7 million for survivors of multiple disasters across four continents including Hurricane Katrina, China’s Wenchuan earthquake, a cholera outbreak in Zimbabwe, earthquakes in Haiti and Japan in 2010, and Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines. MFR has organized benefit concerts, online auctions, and events with multi-platinum musicians and celebrities to help rebuild and donate supplies to people in need. Music for Relief has also planted over 1 million trees to help reduce climate change.

So I was elated a few months ago when MFR asked WILDCOAST, the organization I co-founded and am Executive Director of, to partner in its effort to help combat climate change and storm-related flooding through the conservation of mangrove ecosystems in the Baja California Peninsula.

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Mangroves on Isla Magdalena, Bahia Magdalena, Baja California Sur.

Since WILDCOAST has been working to preserve mangroves in Baja California and throughout Northwest Mexico through the innovative use of conservation concessions in partnership with Mexico’s Protected Area Commission, this offer of support was right up our alley. More importantly the programs seeks to help to prevent climate related storm damage by protecting the natural ecosystems that help to mitigate coastal flooding, protecting wildlife and coastal communities.

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Divers hunt for scallops in Bahia Magdalena.

In the amazingly vast and stunningly beautiful Bahia Magdalena in Baja California Sur we have been carrying out an ambitious plan to preserve mangroves through the application of federal conservation concessions. Here’s a description of the program from MFR:

Mangroves are botanical amphibians that form forests, which are among the most productive and biologically complex ecosystems on Earth. They are the tropical rainforests of the ocean. The plants’ interlocking roots stop riverborne sediments from coursing out to sea – making them natural land builders.  Their trunks and branches serve as a palisade that diminishes the erosive power of waves. Following the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami, research demonstrated that where mangrove forests were intact, they served as natural breakwaters, dissipating the energy of the waves, mitigating damage, and saving lives. Mangroves are threatened by development, oil spills, chemical pollution, sediment overload, climate change, and disruption of their sensitive water and salinity balance. Music for Relief has partnered with WiLDCOAST to conserve 61 miles of mangroves in Magdalena Bay, Baja California Sur, Mexico. The program will help restore wildlife habitats, protect coastal areas, and keep our ocean pristine.

Bahia Magdalena, Baja California Peninsula, Mexico, June

Bottle nose dolphins, Bahia Magdalena. Photo: Claudio Contreras-Koob

This past April we launched this new partnership at the Mobli Beach House in Venice Beach. Linkin Park guitarist Brad Delson attended along with MFR Director Whitney Showler and their incredibly creative and passionate team members.

Brad Delson of Linkin Park, Whitney Showler of MRF and Serge Dedina of WILDCOAST at the MFR Mangrove /Ocean Campaign Launch in Venice Beach.

Brad Delson of Linkin Park, Whitney Showler of MRF and Serge Dedina of WILDCOAST at the MFR Mangrove /Ocean Campaign Launch in Venice Beach.

Of the partnership Whitney said,

“This is an exciting night for us because it’s the first time we’re doing an ocean program. The environmental work we typically do is aimed at disaster risk mitigation, we plant trees in wildfire burned areas or we plant trees in an area where there is a potential for a mudslide and we’ve wanted to do something tho help protect the ocean.” Following the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami, research demonstrated that where mangrove forests were intact, they served as natural breakwaters, dissipating the energy of the waves, mitigating damage and saving lives.

According to Brad Delson:

“It’s a way for the entire music industry to come together after natural disasters and raise money and support people who are effected by these events. We’re really grateful that our music has given us a platform to affect positive change when we have the help of amazing people like some of the folks here tonight. It’s certainly one of the ongoing objectives of Music for Relief to be a voice and an extension of the music industry as a whole. So when other artists join us, when other people in the music industry join us, when fans online get involved in causes, that’s when we see the greatest impact of our efforts.”

The WILDCOAST team at the Arena Mexico for the June 23rd LP concert.

The WILDCOAST team at the Arena Mexico for the June 23rd LP concert.

So at the June 23rd Linkin Park concert at the Arena Mexico in Mexico City we fully launched the campaign in Mexico. On June 25th we also tabled at the Arena Monterrey in Monterrey. It was a great opportunity to get our message out: #mangleESvida (Mangroves are Life) and reach out to whole new conservation audience. The concert attendees couldn’t have been nicer and swarmed our tables to get more info and get a chance to win an electric guitar signed by band members.

LP fans.

LP fans at the WILDCOAST/MFR tables.

Overall it was a great start to a fantastic and critical partnership for preserving oceanic ecosystems that are absolutely essential in preserving life and protecting our oceans and our planet. I found the positivity, passion and earnest interest in social change and environmental protection on the part of LP’s fans really inspiring. It was a hopeful, exuberant crowd and exactly the type of audience conservationists need if we are to continue our effort to sustain the ecosystems that sustain life on earth. We are grateful to Linkin Park and their fans along with MFR for making it possible.

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LP fans in Mexico City-full of hope and optimism.

The day after the Mexico City LP concert, we took advantage of our stay in Mexico City to get our message out on Radio Red and meet with influential Mexican policy makers.  As always, it is not just enough to reach out–we have to make sure that every campaign actually makes a difference on the ground–and in this case we have to do everything possible to preserve the emerald green mangroves of Bahia Magdalena and Mexico’s incredible array of mangrove forests that are a natural buffer and shield against a climate changing future that is coming at us more quickly than we can imagine.

Eduardo Najera and Fay Crevoshay of WILDCOAST on Radio Red in Mexico City talking about climate change and the need for mangrove conservation.

Eduardo Najera and Fay Crevoshay of WILDCOAST on Radio Red in Mexico City.

We can pretend that climate change isn’t happening or we can act now. We are grateful to Linkin Park and their fans along with MFR for making it possible and inspired to action by these words of wisdom from LP:

‘Cause you don’t know what you’ve got Oh you don’t know what you’ve got No you don’t know what you’ve got It’s your battle to be fought No you don’t know what you’ve got ‘Til it’s gone ‘Til it’s gone ‘Til it’s gone

Surfing the Border Cape Region Tour

I did a book tour of the Cape Region of Baja --Todos Santos, San Jose del Cabo, Vinorama and Los Barriles from April 9-12, 2015. Thanks to Sofia Gomez and Fay Crevoshay for organizing media coverage of the tour.

I did a book tour of the Cape Region of Baja –Todos Santos, San Jose del Cabo, Vinorama and Los Barriles from April 9-12, 2015. Thanks to Sofia Gomez and Fay Crevoshay for organizing media coverage of the tour.

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With a staff member of the municipality who came to my talk in Todos Santos.

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Todos Santos is a Pueblo Magico in Mexico and has done a great job of using the arts to promote economic development and tourism.

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I gave a talk at La Esquina on the west side of Todos Santos and was happy to see my longtime friend Gary there. I’ve known Gary since I started surfing in Imperial Beach.

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With our WILDCOAST Chapter members in Todos Santos and Paula Angelotti (second from right) the manager of La Esquina who hosted the talk. 

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When I lived in Todos Santos more than 20 years ago, the beach at Los Cerritos, south of Todos Santos, was bereft of development. Now the dunes there have been replaced by buildings that are at risk from storm-related erosion there.

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Thanks to Armando Figaredo of Cabo Mil radio for interviewing me on his very popular mid-day radio show. I was on the air after a candidate for governor, so I knew it was a good audience. Thanks Armando!

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Osiris Herrera and of the Papalote Sports Bar kindly hosted my talk in San Jose del Cabo. Thanks Osiris and Anne for he wonderful poster design!!!

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We had a great group in San Jose including Raul Rodriguez Quintana, the Los Cabos Municipality Director of Ecoloby (kneeling) and Martha Moctezuma (in the green blouse to my right).

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The Estero San Jose Wetland Reserve is a natural gem at the edge of Los Cabos. It is also a sister reserve with the TJ Estuary in Imperial Beach.

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The reserve is an important habitat for migrant birds.

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The Estero San Jose Reserve is also a wetland of international importance.

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The reserve is incredibly beautiful.

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With Sofia Gomez of WILDCOAST (left) and the Los Cabos Municipality crew along with Martha Moctezuma of Los Cabos Coastkeeper.

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With Melina Arana of Imperial Beach and her husband Horacio who manages he Los Cabos Organic Market.



With Judy Tolbert of Baja Books who hosted me at the weekly organic market.

With Judy Tolbert of Baja Books who hosted me at the weekly organic market.

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At the very nice VidaSoul Hotel and Restaurant on the East Cape. Thanks to owner Joan who generously hosted my talk.

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With Cabo Pulmo National Park Director Director Carlos Godinez (blue shirt) and Park Monitoring Coordinator Ronald Zepeta along with East Cape resident and writer Dawn Pier at Vidasoul-which is a great place for talk.

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Thanks to our WILDCOAST Chapter members who organized a talk at the Hotel Palmas de Cortez in the East Cape town of Los Barriles. It was great to see my longtime friend Markos Higginson who I used to lifeguard with at the Silver Strand State Beach more than 20 years ago.





The Wetlands, Dunes and Oysters of Baja’s San Quintin Bay

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.

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The wetlands of San Quintin are the most important and largest remaining in the Southern California-Baja California Eco-Region.

The beach at San Quintin. These dunes have been preserved by Terra Peninsular.

The beach at San Quintin. These dunes have been preserved by Terra Peninsular.

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Of course the surf was firing the day we visited and we were without boards. Generally the wind howls here.

Our group in San Quintin. Thanks to Terra Peninsular, much of this amazing and world class wetland has been preserved.

Our group in San Quintin. Thanks to Terra Peninsular, much of this amazing and world class wetland has been preserved.Photo courtesy of Alan Harper/Terra Peninsula. 

Oysterman Francisco Aguirre explains the oyster harvest.

Oysterman Francisco Aguirre explains the oyster harvest.

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Francisco’s oyster farm at San Quintin Bay.

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Oyster workers-this activity sustains more than 70 families in San Quintin.

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This sustainable activity both helps create local jobs and helps improve water quality in the bay.

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Part of the oyster facility at San Quintin.

Our feast served with Baja wine.

Our feast served with Baja wine.

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My New Book, Surfing the Border

I will launch the tour for my new book, Surfing the Border, on Saturday January 24th in Coronado and Imperial Beach. I will be speaking and signing books at the Coronado Library Winn Room from 2-3pm and then from 5-6:30 pm I’ll be at the Pier South Resort in Imperial Beach. Should be a blast!!

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2014 in Review

Here are some stats from my blogging in 2014. With the publication of my new book, Surfing the Border next month, I’ll be a lot busier blogging!!

Here’s an excerpt:

The concert hall at the Sydney Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 23,000 times in 2014. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 9 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

WILDCOAST IMPACT 2014

One of the great pleasures of being the Executive Director of WILDCOAST is being able to evaluate our impact each year. And this year was a tremendous year of success. Here are some of our results.

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Hurricane Marie and Coastal Erosion and Flooding

Surf from Hurricane Marie, a Category 5 hurricane, hit Southern California like a bomb on the afternoon of Tuesday, August 26 and through Thursday August 28. While the focus of the swell was in Orange and LA Counties, beaches in Baja and San Diego County experienced large surf and coastal erosion as well.

Hurricane Marie--a monster storm.

Hurricane Marie–a monster storm.

The Eastern Pacific has seen a very intense and early Hurricane season this year. The reason is extremely warm water around Baja California and Mexico’s Pacific Coastline. You can see the elevated water temps in red in this excellent map below.

Areas with elevated water temps are in red.

Areas with elevated water temps are in red.

As the surf filled in on Wednesday the 27th coastal flooding occurred in Seal Beach and at Pt. Mugu State Beach in Los Angeles County. Homes were impacted in Seal Beach and a historic lifeguard station was destroyed at Pt. Mugu. There was also damage from high waves on Catalina Island.

From the LA Times:

The massive surf sent the historic Cove House training building crumbling to the shore at Point Mugu State Park. It washed away a 25-foot section of breakwater protecting the Anaheim Bay in Seal Beach. Pilings at the Malibu Pier were swept into the ocean, and cargo operations had to be temporarily halted at the Port of Long Beach on Wednesday.

On Catalina Island, the waves “essentially destroyed” White’s Landing Pier and another pier at Camp Fox, said Bob Reid, a spokesman for the Catalina Island Conservancy. The ocean was so clouded with debris and silt Thursday that one of the island’s famed glass-bottom boat tours became a sightseeing outing instead.

 

Surf damage on Catalina Islands.

Surf damage on Catalina Islands. Photo: LA Times.

Damage on Catalina. Photo: LA Times

Damage on Catalina. Photo: LA Times

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Damage on Catalina. Source LA Times

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The historic lifeguard headquarters at Pt. Mugu State Beach was destroyed by large waves and coastal flooding.

The historic lifeguard headquarters at Pt. Mugu State Beach was destroyed by large waves and coastal flooding. Photo: LA Times.

Flood damage in Seal Beach.

Flood damage in Seal Beach.

Flood damage in Seal Beach.

Flood damage in Seal Beach.

In Imperial Beach where I live the waves weren’t so large (the storm was focusing wave energy further north) but the strong surf and current resulted in significant coastal erosion. Here are images of the southern end of the beach where there was more erosion that at any time over the past two years.

Berm caused by coastal erosion on August 27, 2014 at the south end of Imperial beach looking northward.

Berm caused by coastal erosion on August 27, 2014 at the south end of Imperial beach looking northward.

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Erosion at the south end of Seacoast Drive in Imperial Beach on August 28, 2014 looking southward toward the mouth of the Tijuana River. This area is a State of California Marine Protected Area as well as fronts the Tijuana Estuary NOAA/FWS Reserve.

Here is a photo of the surf in Imperial Beach by JC Monje that shows the strong swell and why the current and also sand is moving northward. Hurricane swells create a very long longshore current that takes sand from the southern part of the beach and transports it northward where it over time it can end up in Coronado.

Imperial Beach just as Hurricane Marie started hitting on the late afternoon of Tuesday August 26, 2014. Photo: JC Monje

Imperial Beach just as Hurricane Marie started hitting on the late afternoon of Tuesday August 26, 2014. Photo: JC Monje

Trash ,Tires and Sediment in the Tijuana River

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.

A pedestrian bridge made from waste-tires in the Tijuana River in Tijuana.

A pedestrian bridge made from waste-tires in the Tijuana River in Tijuana.

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The Tijuana River in Tijuana just next to City Hall. There are thousands of “Zombies” or homeless men and women (mostly men) living in the river which authorities in Tijuana have shown little effort in dealing with (many were deported from the U.S.). Besides the social and crime problems as a result, the trash that is accumulating is awful. Many of the men wash in the sewage waters of the river. The minute it rains all of this will be washed downstream.

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More garbage and sediment in the Tijuana River just upstream from the international border line. This scene is repeated throughout the river and its watershed. One solution would be to hire the mostly homeless “Zombies” to clean up the river and Tijuana. That would be much cheaper than letting the trash and garbage wash across the river on the other side of the border in the U.S.

 

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