Is The San Jose Estuary Dying?

BY: DAVID FLORES

Depends on who you ask. The recent announcement of the upcoming construction of a non-gambling Caesars Palace resort in the middle of the San Jose estuary has several ecology-minded groups and concerned citizens protesting and attempting to stop the building.

The estuary is not only the largest water source for Los Cabos but it's also home to some 450 types of migratory and endemic species of birds, with some of them listed as endangered species.

There’s the Belding’s Yellowthroat, the Xantus hummingbird, Yellow Footed seagull and many more.

The new Caesars Palace is a project funded by the Questro Group, by far the largest tourist developer in Los Cabos. Think ME by Melia, Casa Dorada, Hilton, Dreams, Cabo Real, Casa del Mar, El Ganzo, the San Jose marina and Puerto Los Cabos, home to the JW Marriott resort among other. Oh, the group also now owns the Gray Ghost - that abandoned building in the Cabo marina, which we all expect to see being remodeled and operating soon.

Following the protests, Questro Group officials met within closed doors with Los Cabos Mayor Armida Castro and most members of the city council to counter the opposition. At the end of the meeting, the group announced that an agreement to create a trust fund to protect and rescue the estuary had been arrived to.

The fund will be, well, funded by Questro, and monitored by city and federal officials as all water bodies in Mexico fall into federal jurisdiction. Non-governmental organizations and business associations will be included, they said. While many people applauded the agreement, some were not impressed.

"This would be the third trust fund that Questro group agrees to create. Trust funds were promised by Questro in 2000, 2011 and now this year," said San Jose native Blanca Pedrin, a long time defender of the estuary.

"The fact that Questro provides and controls the funding has taken us nowhere. Over the years, no reports were issued and, basically, nothing changed. This is another promise that will not be complied with, while the estuary keeps on dying."

The body of water has been affected by the constant overflowing of the nearby sewage treatment plant that Fonatur operates – Fonatur is the federal tourist development agency that created the San Jose hotel zone and the Cabo marina as part of a larger national project to develop more tourist destinations in Mexico. Four more resort areas were created by Fonatur - the Mayan Riviera, Loreto, Ixtapa-Zihuatanejo and Huatulco in Mexico’s southern state of Oaxaca.

Fonatur, the Questro group, the city, and federal agencies have all agreed that the treatment plant is insufficient to treat the large amount of sewage that increases every year as Los Cabos' population grows at an annual rate of 16 percent - a second treatment plant was created up in a San Jose neighborhood, but that water also ends in the plant near the estuary, and excess treated water is still dumped into the estuary.

The National Water Commission, along with the ministry of the environment ‘-Semarnat- and the Northwest Center of Biological studies have promised that a study and report on the status of the estuary will be released by the end of this month and federal funding to end the destruction of the estuary will be sought out.