History of SWIA &The Tijuana Estuary
In 1977, developers were planning an elaborate residential marina in the Tijuana River estuary in Imperial Beach, California. To protect this critical habitat, local environmental activists initiated a grassroots movement to stop the marina development. In 1979 this group formed the Southwest Wetlands Interpretive Association (SWIA), a non-profit 501(c)3. Working cooperatively with the U.S. Navy and the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (USFWS), the marina development was blocked and the estuary spared. In 1980 the 505-acre Tijuana Slough National Wildlife Refuge was created to permanently protect endangered and threatened species that depend on the estuary and salt-marsh habitat. In 1982 the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) extended federal protection with the creation of the 2800-acre Tijuana River National Estuarine Sanctuary. The Sanctuary, now known as the Tijuana River National Estuarine Research Reserve (TRNERR), contains the Refuge and other public and private land.
In 1990 SWIA, together with California State Parks (CSP), USFWS and NOAA, constructed the award-winning, $1.2 million Tijuana Estuary Visitor Center at the northern end of the Tijuana River National Estuarine Research Reserve (TRNERR). In 1992 SWIA was project manager for Ecoparque, an innovative, low tech wastewater recycling project in Mexico. This binational project addressed sewage overflow issues at the border and was funded through the State Coastal Conservancy.Over the years SWIA has managed cutting edge wetlands restoration projects throughout the Tijuana River Valley. In 1992 the Tijuana NERR Management Authority adopted the Tijuana Estuary Tidal Restoration Program (TETRP) that calls for the restoration of 520 acres of inter-tidal