WASHINGTON – Today, Rep. Raúl M. Grijalva (AZ-03) submitted testimony to the House Committee on Transportation & Infrastructure (T&I) to support the inclusion of funding for the International Outfall Interceptor (IOI) in the Water Resources Development Act (WRDA). The WRDA has been enacted on a bipartisan basis for the last four Congresses and is developed in the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee to provides key investments to all 50 states and territories for ports, harbors, and waterways, works to build more resilient communities, and ensures that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is economically and environmentally responsibly in their projects and actions.
Rep. Grijalva encouraged the T&I Committee to reauthorize the WRDA with full funding for the IOI to continue repairs and clarify that the International Boundary and Water Commission (IBWC) is responsible for future maintenance to prevent raw sewage from spilling into waterways:
“I appreciate the Chairs past support to address the issues surrounding IOI and ask that you use this vehicle to include provisions to settle the last remaining items of the longstanding IOI pipeline issues,” said Rep. Grijalva. “I encourage you to work with my office and the IBWC to include authorization and full funding to continue repairs and clarify that the IBWC is responsible for future maintenance of the IOI to prevent raw sewage from spilling into waterways. It is my understanding that the IBWC is now prepared to accept this role, provided they are authorized and allocated the funding necessary. After years of neglecting much-needed repairs, repairs have begun, and we now have the opportunity to settle the maintenance issue once and for all.”
The IOI is the infrastructure that transports wastewater from Sonora, Mexico and Arizona to the Nogales International Wastewater Treatment Plant. On average, 92% of the water treated daily at the Nogales International Wastewater Treatment Plant is from Mexico and 8% from the surrounding community. Unfortunately, due to damage and aging infrastructure, the IOI needs costly and urgent repairs. Wastewater constantly emerges from the IOI and pollutes surrounding rivers and streams. Rains carry the polluted stormwater into Nogales, Arizona and exposes downstream populations to extraordinary public health risk.
Rep. Grijalva’s full remarks can be found here.
Prior to the ban on earmarks, Rep. Grijalva worked each year since 2004 to secure funding for the Nogales Wash / Chula Vista and International Outflow Interceptor projects through the appropriations process. He requested $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.
Earlier this , 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. It comes as the result of a letter sent to Arizona Governor, Doug Ducey in 2017 urging him to commence the Disaster Declaration process and seek immediate federal assistance to address imminent threats of water sewage exposure to thousands of Arizona residents.
Additionally, Rep. Grijalva filed an amendment to the Water Resources Development Act of 2016 to require the United States Section of the International Boundary and Water Commission to provide resources for the Nogales Sanitation Project.
In 2019, Rep. Grijalva introduced the bipartisan Nogales Wastewater Fairness Act, which would ensure that the International Boundary and Water Commission (IBWC) is responsible for the much-needed infrastructure repairs and future maintenance of the International Outfall Interceptor (IOI) to prevent raw sewage from spilling into waterways.
In 2020, he passed an amendment to direct $4 million within the IBWC to clarify the responsibility for maintenance and operation of the IOI.
Last 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 International Outfall Interceptor (IOI). The amendment will direct $4 million within the International Border and Water Commission (IBWC) to clarify the responsibility and maintenance of the IOI in addition to, and separate from, the funds designated for long-needed repairs.