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Hunter ready to move on canal lifelines

March 20, 2001|By DARREN SIMON, Staff Writer

John Hunter, whose efforts led the Imperial Irrigation District directors to approve placing lifelines across the All-American Canal, said he is ready to make the lines a reality.

One of the conditions the IID board set before allowing the lifelines to be placed across the canal was that Hunter obtain insurance for the lines.

Hunter, a brother of the Imperial Valley's congressman, Duncan Hunter, said Monday he has done just that.

Hunter, who resides in the San Diego area, said he has obtained an insurance policy that would insure the lifelines for up to $5 million. He said he will pay $4,500 a year for the policy.

"I am ready to put these things in myself," Hunter said.

IID directors were expected to meet with Hunter today so he could provide an update on the lifelines. Hunter said he plans to share the information on the insurance and he is looking for the board to take some action to move the lifeline project forward during the board's next meeting.

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The insurance policy is one of several conditions the board set on the project.

If the board approves the insurance, it would authorize a feasibility study to determine how to place the lines across the canal.

Board President Andy Horne said that study, which would be done by a consultant, would deal with where the lifelines should be placed and the proper design to assure the lines are safe.

Horne said the study could be done quickly, but added he wants to examine the insurance Hunter has obtained before the board starts the study.

Horne added he would like to see the lifelines up before the summer, adding in recent weeks people have died in the All-American.

Horne said the lifelines, which would be paid for by federal funds, may not be a perfect idea, but the board has to take some action.

"It's making the best out of a bad situation," Horne said.

Bruce Kuhn, the most vocal supporter of the lifelines on the board, said he does not want to wait to start the feasibility study. He said he would have liked to have seen the study already moving forward.

"We are digging 40 bodies out a year," Kuhn said. "This crap has to stop."

Kuhn said the issue likely will be discussed during the board's next meeting, which will be Monday in the IID auditorium in El Centro.

The board has set a condition that the lines be monitored to see if they are making a difference or whether they lead to an increase in criminal activity.

Concern the lifelines would increase criminal activity along the border has been the chief issue addressed by critics of the idea, including Director Lloyd Allen, who cast the sole vote against the lifelines.

John Hunter, who has lobbied the board for months to take action, has argued the goal is simply to save lives.

Hunter also was responsible for placing water stations in the Imperial Valley desert to lessen deaths.

Hunter was expected to meet with Imperial County officials today to discuss increasing the number of water stations as the summer approaches.

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

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