WASHINGTON – Today, Representative Raúl M. Grijalva (AZ-07) announced the Nogales Wastewater Improvement Act of 2023 was included in the 2023 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) conference report.
The Nogales Wastewater Improvement Act language authorizes the transfer of ownership of the International Outfall Interceptor (IOI) to the International Boundary and Water Commission (IBWC) for much-needed infrastructure repairs, future operations and maintenance when funds are appropriated. Rep. Grijalva has worked since 2004 to secure funding for the Nogales Wash / Chula Vista and International Outflow Interceptor projects through the appropriations process and legislative process.
“It has been a painstaking process, but now we can start taking the steps necessary to end the failure and neglect of this pipeline that created a persistent public health threat of sewage leaks in Nogales, Arizona. Every community deserves a clean, healthy environment in which to raise their kids and live their lives free of toxic waste,” said Rep. Grijalva. “I am confident in IBWC’s leadership and firm ability to properly manage the pipeline and am proud to have worked with them, City of Nogales, the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality, Senators Sinema and Kelly and other federal officials to secure this language in the NDAA.”
“This agreement has been decades in the making – and I’m incredibly proud that it is moving forward to become law. Our legislation delivers a permanent solution to the Nogales International Outfall Interceptor dilemma and provides long-awaited relief to Nogales families’ health and safety,” said Senator Sinema.
“After decades of failure by the federal government, Nogales residents finally have a solution that fixes hazards created by failing wastewater infrastructure,” said Senator Kelly. “This permanent solution will eliminate public health risks, combat drug trafficking, and improve border security.”
“For decades, our community has been asking the federal government for a resolution on the ownership and maintenance of the Nogales IOI. Transferring the responsibility to the IBWC with funding ensures that we can address the public health and environmental issues caused by breaches of the Nogales IOI. We are extremely grateful to Congressman Grijalva for his advocacy and leadership on this effort, and we eagerly await the passage of the Nogales Wastewater Improvement Act in the 2023 NDAA,” said Jaime Chamberlain, Chairman of the Greater Nogales Santa Cruz County Port Authority.
“Congressman Grijalva continues to be a strong advocate for the cross-border environmental challenges that faces our border community. We are grateful for his leadership in pushing forward the Nogales Wastewater Improvement Act alongside our congressional delegation. With the $38 million improvement project already underway to remediate the pipeline, the partnership between the Congressman and our community is bringing results to improve the quality of life and wellbeing for residents of Santa Cruz County, ” said Supervisor Bruce Bracker of Santa Cruz County.
The Nogales Wastewater Improvement Act is critical to prevent raw sewage from spilling into Nogales’ waterways and to ensure Nogales is not burdened with a disproportionate share of responsibility for an international pipeline. The IOI conveys over 10 million gallons of water originating from both Nogales, Sonora and Nogales, Arizona to the International Wastewater Treatment Plant in Rio Rico, Arizona. The treated effluent is a valuable source of water for the preservation of an important river habitat and as a source of groundwater for downstream users.
The agreed upon text of the NDAA conference report must receive votes in the House and Senate before being signed into law by President Biden.
Rep. Grijalva has worked since 2004 to secure funding for the Nogales Wash / Chula Vista and International Outflow Interceptor projects through the appropriations process. He secured $10 million for the project in fiscal year 2009 and $19.7 million in fiscal years 2010 and 2011. His Border Infrastructure and Jobs Act, first introduced in 2011, included an additional authorization of appropriations to fix the IOI.
In 2016, Rep. Grijalva filed an amendment to the Water Resources Development Act to require the United States Section of the International Boundary and Water Commission to provide resources for the Nogales Sanitation Project.
In June 2019, Rep. Grijalva introduced the bipartisan and bicameral Nogales Wastewater Fairness Act with then Senator Martha McSally (R-AZ) which would ensure that the IBWC is responsible for the much-needed infrastructure repairs and future maintenance of the IOI to prevent raw sewage from spilling into waterways.
In 2020, Rep. Grijalva passed an amendment to direct $4 million within the IBWC to clarify the responsibility for maintenance and operation of the IOI. In the prior year, the House passed H.R. 4373, the Department of State, Foreign Operations, and related agencies appropriations bill that included Rep. Grijalva’s amendment to clarify responsibility for the IOI.
In 2022, as Chair of the House Natural Resource Committee, Rep. Grijalva negotiated the Nogales Wastewater Improvement Act into the Wildfire Response and Drought Resiliency Act which passed the House on July 29, 2022. Action was not taken in the Senate.
Additionally in 2022, Rep. Grijalva announced $8.6 million in federal funding for the Ephraim Canyon Flood Project which will construct and develop a detention basin in Nogales, Arizona between I-19 and the Mariposa Port of Entry (POE), in Santa Cruz County to protect vital infrastructure including the IOI.
In July 2022, Rep, Grijalva introduced the Nogales Wastewater Improvement Act with Senators Kyrsten Sinema (I-AZ) and Mark Kelly (D-AZ), and then-Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick.