Kelly, Sinema, Grijalva, Kirkpatrick Introduce Wastewater Pipeline Legislation Representing Historic Agreement on Nogales’ International Outfall Interceptor

The bicameral legislation – introduced by Sinema and cosponsored by Kelly in the U.S. Senate and introduced by Grijalva and cosponsored by Kirkpatrick in the U.S. House – transfers ownership, operations, and maintenance responsibilities of the International Outfall Interceptor to the U.S. – providing long-awaited relief to the health and safety of Nogales communities

Today, Arizona Senators Mark Kelly and Kyrsten Sinema and Representatives Raúl Grijalva (AZ-03) and Ann Kirkpatrick (AZ-02) introduced the Nogales Wastewater Improvement Act– bicameral legislation that transfers the ownership, operations, and maintenance of the International Outfall Interceptor to the U.S.-section of the International Boundary and Water Commission, securing a historic agreement between the City of Nogales and the federal government.

“For too long, the City of Nogales has received little to no support from Washington on this issue. Our bill will finally provide the City of Nogales with a permanent solution, which protects public health and improves infrastructure in Arizona’s border communities,” said Senator Kelly. “Glad to work with Representatives Grijalva and Kirkpatrick and Senator Sinema to get this done for Arizona.”

“After years of working to provide urgent resources to repair the failing International Outfall Interceptor pipeline, I am happy to introduce this negotiated legislation to once and for all clarify the operations and maintenance of the pipeline. We must ensure that the city of Nogales is not burdened with a disproportionate share of responsibility for an international pipeline.  This issue has been a persistent public health threat and has weighed on the city for far too long,” said Grijalva. “I am grateful for the work of Sen. Sinema, the city Nogales, Arizona Department of Environment Quality and especially to U.S. IBWC Commissioner Maria-Elena Giner for being a willing partner to solve this longstanding issue.  Every community should be able to live in an environment that allows them to thrive and be free from environmental hazards. This joint legislation will move us toward that goal.”

“This legislation is a great step forward for the health and wellbeing of Nogales and the surrounding area. It is crucial that we ensure operations and maintenance of this pipeline are clear and efficient – and this agreement simply makes sense from a cost and management perspective. I am grateful to work with my colleagues in the House and Senate on this project and I look forward to the continued and growing partnership between the City of Nogales and the U.S. International Boundary Water Commission on repairing this necessary pipeline for our communities,” said Kirkpatrick.

“We’re proud to have secured this historic agreement between the City of Nogales and the federal government, and we immediately introduced legislation to transfer the ownership, operations, and maintenance responsibilities to the U.S. International Boundary and Water Commission to keep Nogales families safe and healthy,”said Sinema.

“The City of Nogales is gratified at the time and attention all parties have put into making this consensus bill a reality, especially Sen. Sinema’s office.  We believe this is a major step forward in rebuilding our relationship with the USIBWC and putting it on a solid footing.  We hope Congress will speedily pass this legislation, as it is long overdue,” said Nogales Mayor Arturo Garino.

“When the original ownership structure was conceived decades ago, no one ever imagined that the Ambos Nogales region would grow to become one of the most dynamic and fastest growing on the border. This legislation takes into consideration what Nogales has become and offers a safer future for the residents of the binational region,”said Jaime Chamberlain, Chairman of the Greater Nogales Santa Cruz County Port Authority. “We are grateful to Senators Sinema and Kelly, and Congressman Grijalva for working out the details on this long-term solution.”

“This is an important step forward in ensuring the continued maintenance and safety of an important wastewater pipeline that runs directly through our community, including through key commercial areas,” said Lance Jungmeyer, president of the Fresh Produce Association of the Americas.  “We value the leadership of Senators Kyrsten Sinema and Mark Kelly and Congressman Raul Grijalva for their commitment in resolving this issue.  Designated federal ownership of the international outflow interceptor ensures a continued ability to safely move and treat wastewater that flows through the heart of Nogales and north into the U.S.” 

When you combine this change in the ownership structure with the $38 million investment being made to modernize the IOI, we can be assured of a certain future for residents and businesses in the region. I would like to thank Senator Sinema, Senator Kelly, Congressman Grijalva and Congresswoman Kirkpatrick for their perseverance that resulted in this bill.  Placing the responsibility of maintaining and operating this international wastewater system in the hands of the U.S. federal government is the best outcome for the residents of Nogales and Santa Cruz County,” said Bruce Bracker, Chairman of the Santa Cruz County Board of Supervisors

“We want to thank Senators Sinema and Kelly along with Representatives Kirkpatrick and Grijalva for their leadership and commitment to solving a 40 year-old problem. This legislation gets us much closer to the final piece of a multi-year effort to rehabilitate and maintain critical water infrastructure in Southern Arizona,”said ADEQ Director Misael Cabrera, P.E.

For decades, the City of Nogales has continually tried to seek federal funds and additional ownership responsibility from the U.S. International Boundary and Water Commission (IBWC) for necessary infrastructure improvements on an international sewage pipe that flows from Mexico through Nogales, Arizona to the Nogales International Wastewater Treatment Facility in Rio Rico, Arizona.

Families in Nogales have faced challenges with untreated wastewater coming from Mexico and overflowing into streets during storm events. This legislation will streamline the ability for the government to respond to crises on the US-side of the border and authorizes full funding for operations and maintenance into the future.

The legislation will provide long-awaited relief to the health and safety of Nogales communities by transferring the ownership, operations, and maintenance responsibilities from the city to the U.S.-side of the International Boundary and Water Commission. Congressman Raúl Grijalva (AZ-03) introduced companion legislation in the U.S. House.

In the Senate, Kelly has worked to protect the health and safety of Arizona communities. Through last year’s Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, Kelly secured billions of dollars in key funding for Arizona infrastructure projects, including $2.8 million for Nogales wastewater infrastructure and investment in Nogales ports of entry infrastructure. Kelly also secured funding for Arizona communities through this year’s government funding bill, which included a $500,000 investment for the Nogales port facilities and border security.