Plan to clean New River requires RDA agreement

August 13, 2001|By AARON CLAVERIE, Staff Writer

CALEXICO — Seattle-based R.W. Beck Inc. has created a plan to clean a section of the New River, but the plan involves entering into a $150,000 agreement with the Calexico Redevelopment Agency.

At Tuesday's regular RDA meeting, the City Council, seated as the RDA board, will decide whether to pay Beck $150,000 to develop a "funding package" that will be sent to a lending agency.

If the lending agency, a collection of charitable foundations, approves the funding of the RDA/Beck project, $50-60 million could be spent to clean a section of the New River and the $150,000 will be reimbursed.

If the lending agency rejects the project the city will have spent $150,000 on a "funding package."

This morning, Richard Zaragosa, a director of program management services for Beck's Southern California office, said, "Tomorrow is an important day because we need a notice to proceed."


Beck is a corporation of independent engineers that works with multi-lateral banks in finding alternative funding for civic and nature-based operations.

If Beck is given notice to proceed from the RDA board, it will develop and send off the funding package to solicit "humanitarian loans" from large corporations to fund a New River cleanup from the border to Highway 98.

Zaragoza said the deadline for the package to be submitted is Sept. 21.

Before Beck can send the package, it needs to develop the concept engineering for the project.

That is where the RDA comes into the picture.

Beck wants the board to fund the development of the engineering and funding package for $150,000.

If the board approves that expenditure, Beck will prepare and submit a funding package to the lending agency for approval.

The lending agency in the case of the New River project is a collection of environmental foundations that will evaluate the project to determine if it is "humanitarian," Zaragoza said..

If the lending agency rejects the funding package, he said, the city could use the $150,000 worth of information on the New River to solicit funds on its own.

If the project is approved, the city will have spent $150,000 with a corporation that will seek more money to find out if the project will be approved by the federal government.

Because the New River flows into the Salton Sea, it falls under the jurisdiction of the U.S. Army's Corps of Engineers.

Beck has determined it has a good chance of securing permits from the Corps of Engineers but only if the project follows California Environmental Quality Act guidelines..

"We will have to develop an environmental impact review to comply with the CEQA guidelines. That EIR will take about 18 to 24 months to complete," Zaragoza said.

The environmental study that would have to be completed to comply with the act would be paid for by the lending agency if the lending agency signs off on the project in the first place.

Zaragoza said the price tag for the study and the final project would be in the $50-60 million range.

"The loans don't have to be paid off because the money is for the betterment of the environment, " Zaragoza said.

After securing funding and clearing all environmental hurdles, Beck would work with engineers to develop an implementation plan that would define exactly what sort of work would be done and in what time frame.

Some potential cleanup solutions included in the plan are lining and covering a section of the river, channeling river water into evaporation ponds, stamping the flow of trash at the border and installing a waterfall system to aerate the water.

"This is a great opportunity for the residents of Calexico," Zaragoza said.

"I think this is something we need to look into," said Mayor Pro Tem John Renison.

"We need to fish or cut bait. We need to make a strong commitment and fund the application because the funding sources look very, very promising," Renison said.

"We're hedging our bets in a sense but I feel really confident that the $150,00 will be reimbursed at a later date," he added.

Staff Writer Aaron Claverie can be reached at 337-3419 or

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