Canal lifelines, desert water station supporters say delays are killing people

March 30, 2001|By RUDY YNIGUEZ, Staff Writer

Referring to the All-American Canal and desert areas as "serial killers," proponents of stringing lifelines across the canal to prevent drownings and of placing water stations in the desert to prevent deaths by dehydration said delays in the projects are killing people.

At Thursday's meeting of the Project for Immigrant Lives task force, San Diego-businessman John Hunter said lives are being lost while local bureaucracies delay implementation of the life-saving measures. Hunter singled out the Imperial Irrigation District for delaying the installation of 80 lifelines along the canal.

"Thirty to 40 people will drown before these are up," he said, adding he expects the lifelines to be installed in two to 24 months, although likely within six months.

What's delaying the ropes' installation is a study commissioned by the IID Board of Directors at this week's board meeting, Hunter said, adding IID is undertaking too many studies, this being the third.


IID board President Andy Horne said the study will look at a broad array of technical issues intended to minimize the district's exposure to liability. Additionally, Horne said IID has required Hunter to show proof the liability insurance is in effect before IID will allow him to move forward on the lifeline project.

Horne said Hunter was on this week's IID agenda to give the board an update on his efforts but failed to show.

There is also a question about the adequacy of Hunter's proposed method of installing the lifelines anchors. Hunter said there is no need to raise additional money to install the lines because the project is an 18-month test and that he and volunteers can use a sledge hammer or hydraulic ram to drive 4-foot long rods into the ground.

To have the anchors professionally installed Hunter estimated it would cost $20,000 to $30,000, and he suggested that if required to have the lines professionally installed, it might be possible for the Bureau of Reclamation to pay for the added expense as it has already agreed to pay for the lifelines themselves.

On a separate issue, Hunter said he will return to the county Board of Supervisors on Tuesday and seek funds to help pay for his efforts to place 400 water stations in the desert to help rehydrate desert travelers. He estimated the cost for supplies, equipment and labor at $87,000. He said with the lives saved the county could save about $150,000 a year in costs.

In other business, the task force heard a coroner's update from county Sheriff Harold Carter, who was asked how illegal immigration is affecting costs at the Coroner's Office.

"My Coroner's Office reports there's been an increase, not a decrease; just associated with entry (into the United States)," Carter said.

Although the county only gets reimbursed for a small portion of its expenses associated with illegal immigration, Carter said he appreciates whatever he gets.

Staff Writer Rudy Yniguez can be reached at 337-3440.

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