After months of scrambling for funds to repair a deteriorating cross-border sewer line in Santa Cruz County, the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality now has a contribution from the state government to put toward its goal.
Arizona’s $11.8 billion budget for fiscal year 2020, passed by the state legislature and signed into law by Gov. Doug Ducey on May 27, includes a one-time appropriation of $2.6 million to help ADEQ with what was labeled as “Nogales wastewater.”
“The investment will help repair the International Outfall Interceptor to ensure that water flowing through it from Mexico into Arizona is treated and safe,” said Tamara Skinner, spokeswoman for the Governor’s Office, in an email, adding: “Arizona’s investment will be matched by funding from federal and private partners.”
However, it’s still not clear which partners will provide those funds.
Last October, ADEQ Director Misael Cabrera told county officials that the U.S. International Boundary and Water Commission had $21 million, or 78 percent, of the cost for a cured-in-place project to shore up the IOI, an 8.8-mile line that carries more than 10 million gallons of sewage each day from the border to a treatment plant in Rio Rico.
The remaining 22 percent (approximately $6 million), Cabrera said at the time, had to come from other sources, adding that he had already managed to secure a $1 million contribution from an unspecified private foundation.
Reached last week, ADEQ spokeswoman Erin Jordan was unable to confirm whether the numbers from last October were still valid, and declined to comment if there had been any additional contributions since then.
“ADEQ is making progress on identifying funding to meet the required match to begin rehabilitation of the IOI and is hopeful that work will begin this year,” Jordan told the NI last Thursday.
County and city officials say any additional funds for the repairs won’t come from them.
Mayor Arturo Garino insisted that Nogales’ use of the IOI is much less than the financial commitment the city is asked to provide for it.
“If we start putting ourselves in a position where we’re going to be responsible for that line, every time it breaks, Nogales will have to take care of it,” Garino said, adding: “We still have to balance our budget, but there isn’t anything on our budget that has to do with the IOI.”
The County Board of Supervisors passed a resolution last Wednesday, June 5, supporting the City of Nogales in its effort to demand fair treatment in regard to the IOI, and urging the federal government to provide funding for the project.
Supervisor Manuel Ruiz told the NI that while the issue is a big concern for the county, he doesn’t see the board of supervisors approving any monetary contribution for the repairs, either.
“I think there are ways through our flood control district – we could do some kind of work along the IOI so we can protect it. I think it would be an indirect (contribution) to take care of those issues to stabilize the areas where the IOI passes,” Ruiz said.