Border 2020 Commitments and Accomplishments: National Coordinators Meeting

By Jane Nishida

The United States-Mexico border region is one of the most dynamic in the world. Today, the border is home to over 14 million people. Approximately 90% of the population resides in cities, while the remaining population is found in small towns or rural communities. Over 430,000 of the 14 million people in the region live in 1700 colonias, neighborhoods in Mexican cities without jurisdictional autonomy or representation. There are 26 U.S. federally-recognized Native American tribes, many of which share extensive cultural and family ties with indigenous peoples in the border region of Mexico.

Border 2020 National Coordinators at a meeting in El Paso, Texas.

In late September my team and I joined EPA’s Region 6 Administrator, Ron Curry, and Region 9 Administrator, Jared Blumenfeld, at the National Coordinators meeting under the Border 2020 U.S.-Mexico Environmental Program held in El Paso, Texas. This was the first National Coordinators meeting for the new Border 2020 Program. Together, we reexamined the goals, objectives, and operations of the program as we renewed our bi-national partnership.

During the working sessions, we discussed strategies to reach program goals and maximize resources throughout the two-year work plan. These sessions focused on the five goals of the Border 2020 program – air pollution reduction, improvement of access to clean and safe water, enhancing joint preparedness for environmental response, materials and waste management and clean sites and enhancing compliance assurance and environmental stewardship.

Not only was it an exciting opportunity to hear about the important projects along the U.S.-Mexico border, we also committed to continuing the strengthening of our partnership and collaboration with the ten border states, 26 U.S.-border tribes and indigenous communities, local governments, industry, and the public, and to define a new course of action for making a visible difference for our border communities.

EPA and the Border Health Commission (BHC), one of the exciting partnerships, are working together on important issues to improve the environment and public health in the U.S.-Mexico border region. We have established Pediatric Environmental Health Specialty Units (PEHSU) along the border to improve children’s health by enhancing educational and consultative services to communities. Our new 2015-2016 agreement has identified public health and environmental leadership, building environmental health capacity, and strengthening institutional resiliency and accountability as priority areas.

Next year is an important one under the Border 2020 Program because we start the mid-term evaluation of the Program and we plan to develop and publish the 2016 Border Indicators Report. These important milestones would help ensure that our border collaboration translates into environmental benefits for the inhabitants of the United States-Mexico border region.

Editor's Note: The views expressed here are intended to explain EPA policy. They do not change anyone's rights or obligations.

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The Devil’s Corner

By Regina Klepikow

     I grew up in South Texas. My father’s family was from Laredo, Texas and occupied a half a block of El Rincon del Diablo, the Devils Corner for years and still do to this very day. My father was born on one of the first streets in America, Ventura Street. The house he grew up in had minimal luxuries and his back yard was the Rio Grande. As a child, my brothers and I would visit our aunts, uncles, and cousins who lived there. We would play kick ball in the open area next to our families’ houses. We could clearly see the U.S Border Patrol Bridge and across that Mexico. We used to explore the edge of the Rio Grande and skip rocks across its waters. When I was walking along the banks, I could clearly see trails and personal belongings that others had left behind. Into the dark murky waters of the Rio Grande, I watched even darker waters pouring into the river from drains and spouts at various points along the bank. As a kid, no one really thinks of water quality and the health impacts of poor waters; but I thought in my mind that something was amiss.


     Growing up, I always wondered who was in charge of the river. I thought there has to be someone out there that checks up on this. As I did some research, I found some articles written by EPA about the water quality of the Rio Grande, and realized that Mexico was not subject to our policies. Upon entering college, I wrote an essay about Water Quality in the Rio Grande for a scholarship.

     Now that I am out of college and an EPA employee, I have learned a lot about our nation’s water bodies. I feel that I am an important part of analyzing our water quality here in Region 7. I have analyzed water samples for inorganic contaminants, nutrients, and currently for microbiological contaminants. I never thought that I would ever be doing something that pertained to my scholarship essay or my childhood thoughts. It seems as though it has all come full circle.

     Region 7 has a great app called KCWaterBug.  During warmer months, I use this app a lot. My daughter and I love to go out to our local creeks and rivers to look for fossils and insects. She has a large insect collection and we are building on our fossil collection. Upon checking the app, my daughter and I will determine if we will go to a nearby stream or wait for another day. If the water quality is good, we go on a little hike. It is fun to pass time by skipping rocks and following the banks and turning over rocks. It is even better when we come across fossils like Rugose coral or fossilized bivalves. We have also run across others who search for fossils or arrowheads along the banks too. Hopefully some day, my daughter will recall our fossil hunting trips as fondly as I remember skipping rocks back near the Devil’s Corner. I know she is just as interested in learning how to restore and preserve our waters for the two of us to enjoy, and one day, for her own children.


Regina Klepikow was born and grew up in south Texas. She relocated to Kansas City with her family in the 90’s where she attended high school and college. She loves art and photography but not wanting to live the life of a starving artist she majored in Biology. Currently she is a Life Scientist at the Region 7 Laboratory. In order to let her artistic creativity out, she has devoted herself iPhone photography and is avid Instagrammer.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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