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Impassioned John Hunter again pushes for canal lifelines

January 24, 2001|By DARREN SIMON, Staff Writer

Armed with the names of those illegal immigrants who died crossing the All-American Canal in 2000, John Hunter on Tuesday continued to push for lifelines to be placed along the canal.

In an impassioned speech before the Imperial Irrigation District Board of Directors, Hunter said last year 34 people died in local waterways, the majority of those in the All-American.

Hunter, a brother of Congressman Duncan Hunter, who represents the Imperial Valley, said the deaths are a tragedy that could be prevented.

Hunter had those working with him on this issue read the names of some who had died trying to cross the canal.


Imperial Valley resident Blake Miles was among those who read names of the dead.

Miles also told the board it might, at the least, consider the economics of placing the lines along the canal.

He said it costs about $3,000 per body pulled from the canal, adding last year at least $100,000 was spent on those who died in the canal.

He added if a person found in the canal survives and requires medical care that increases the cost to the county even more.

"Economically this could be a benefit to us," Miles said of the lifelines.

Hunter said the goal is to place a line at every mile point along the entire canal. After the meeting he said if the money were available he could have the lines up this weekend.

Because the presentation was during the public comment portion of the meeting, the board took no action on Hunter's presentation.

However, Director Bruce Kuhn pledged his support for the lines.

"There is some merit to getting this done," Kuhn said. "I don't think a rope every mile is too much to ask."

Kuhn added, "If there is some heat to this, I'll take it."

The one step the board took is to ask that Kuhn and Director Stella Mendoza, assigned to a committee to work with Hunter, meet again to discuss the latest ideas.

Outside the meeting, Hunter said he was hoping to motivate the board to action by sharing the names of those who had died.

"The next step if things do not accelerate is to get some faces of those who have died; find out who those people are," he said.

In past meetings the IID directors have expressed concern about the lines, stating IID could make itself more liable for deaths in the canal.

Some board members have stated the lines could attract more people to try to cross the All-American and give a false sense that it is safe.

Staff Writer Darren Simon can be reached at 337-4082.

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