Imperial Beach continued to face problems from pollution to displaced sand as other beaches across the county reopened Monday after raw sewage poured in from Tijuana.
Local coasts have been hit by King Tides, which are extremely high tides that occur every year, and for Imperial Beach, it has sent contaminated ocean water up into the streets and carried away much-needed sand.
“This is way worse than I ever expected,” said Serge Dedina, mayor of Imperial Beach.
A lot of the beach’s sand was scooped up and dumped at the Tijuana River National Estuarine Research Reserve, known as the Tijuana Estuary. This is a federal reserve.
“I didn't expect this,” Dedina said. “I didn't expect our beach to wash into the Estuary.”
The mayor said he needs the sand back onto his beach because it’s the coast’s first defense against flooding and erosion. However, this is proving more difficult because of the partial government shutdown.
“The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service regulate [the Tijuana Estuary], so we're going to have to work with them. Of course, they're on furlough right now, which doesn't help,” Dedina told NBC 7.
Dedina called the coastal flooding and raw sewage the worst he had seen in his 40 years of living in Imperial Beach.
County health officials said Imperial Beach’s water is still too polluted Monday, while areas like Coronado and Silver Strand State Beach have already been given the all-clear to reopen.
The mayor called the raw sewage “the worst stuff you could possibly image.”
Runoff containing raw sewage, disease, and other harmful toxins wash into the Tijuana River and is then carried into the U.S. and spit out into the ocean south of the Tijuana River Estuary. North-flowing currents push and spread the contaminants across south county shorelines and force days-long water contact closures.
“It's expensive to clean. It doesn't seem like a big deal but it really is,” Dedina said. “Right now, what we have to do is clean up our streets, get everything cleaned, back up to normal.”
Though, some San Diegans have decided to enjoy the scenic view of the 14-foot waves while they last.
“We get these tides every January. It's normal stuff. It's beautiful to come and watch,” said William Fenton from Bay Park. “Just being able to see nature, listen to the waves.”
William and his partner Vicky came to Ocean Beach to see the end of the King Tides.
“You know what? We can’t control it,” Vicky told NBC 7.
William and Vicky said that watching the big waves is their “happy place.”
The mayor said Imperial Beach needs to look at long-term solutions to continue to protect the beach and its view. So far, his beach has been closed for every day of 2019.