Baja Develops

UTSD

A planned desalination plant in Rosarito Beach, a cargo airport outside Ensenada and the expansion of Ensenada’s seaport are key to Baja California’s economic growth, a state official said Tuesday in San Diego.

“We strongly believe in developing infrastructure as strategic to becoming more competitive,” Carlo Bonfante Olache, Baja California’s secretary of economic development, told participants at the World Forum for Foreign Direct Investment, which ends Wednesday.

The three-day conference has drawn more than 350 participants from 33 countries, said Bob Watkins, vice-chair of the Cali Baja Bi-National Mega-Region, one of the event’s main sponsors. Now its fourth year, the conference has been staged in Shanghai, Philadelphia and Sharjah, in the United Arab Emirates.

Monday’s schedule included tours of the Imperial Valley and Baja California, with visits to alternative energy production facilities, and advanced manufacturing plants.

In an interview, Bonfante said the Baja California government is preparing to receive bids April 21 on a large desalination plant in Rosarito Beach, with the eventual capacity of 100,000 acre-feet of water a day.

The facility is being developed as a public-private partnership. Bonfante said the state plans to select a bidder by mid-May, launch construction by the end of the year, and make the plant operational by the first quarter of 2019.

Other projects in the works include the federal government’s expansion of the port of Ensenada, increasing its capacity from 250,000 containers a year to 400,000.

A project outside Ensenada involves the establishment of a public/private partnership to build and operate a cargo airport in the Ojos Negros Valley. Bonfante said the state has acquired land for the project and is looking to the private sector as operators.

Though initially the airport would serve a national market, “we believe that it’s a good hub for cargo transfer in the long run to Asia and other places,” Bonfante said.

The state is also looking to the private sector for the development of energy projects, Bonfante said. By the end of this month, the state is preparing to receive proposals from three companies that would supply power to the state for 25 years, with prices at least 25 percent lower than those of Mexico’s Federal Electricity Commission, Bonfante said.

sandra.dibble@sduniontribune.com

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