Lifelines give ‘false sense of security,' safety report indicates

June 09, 2001|By KELLY GRANT, Staff Writer

Lifelines should not be installed in the All-American Canal because they'll give illegal border-crossers a "false sense of security," according to a safety consultant's report released Friday.

In fact, Gary Buffington of Los Angeles-based American Safety Consulting, writes in the report that lifelines could exacerbate the problem their proponents are trying to solve.

In the report Buffington says the false sense of security could even encourage more people to cross, "resulting in even more people dying."

Buffington was commissioned to do the report by the law offices of Horton, Knox, Carter and Foote of El Centro, general counsel for the Imperial Irrigation District.


Buffington writes "it is my professional opinion that the design prepared by the (Imperial Irrigation) District would be likely to increase fatalities rather than reduce them, by presenting a false sense of safety to those who might choose to use the canal as part of the border-crossing process."

Buffington writes he was asked by Orlando Foote, IID's attorney, to conduct a study examining the lifeline proposal by John Hunter, its implementation and the possibility of alternatives. Foote asked Buffington to include his opinions concerning the project's effectiveness.

Foote told Buffington to not concern himself with the project's costs or the legal issues of people crossing the border, Buffington writes.

During his investigation, which started in late March, Buffington met with IID and U.S. Border Patrol officials as well as the Imperial County Sheriff's Office chief deputy coroner.

In Buffington's understanding, canal surface waters move at 8 to 10 mph Undertow currents reach 15 to 20 mph.

Buffington writes that, according to the Los Angeles Fire Department, "water at 20 mph will exert 1600 PSI (pounds per square inch) on a stationary object. Even the strongest swimmer cannot fight this type of pressure.

"Thus, with subsurface water speeds in excess of 20 mph on the All-American Canal, the effectiveness of a cable and buoy system at the surface would be drastically reduced," Buffington's report states.

The IID Board of Directors will have a special meeting at 5 p.m. Monday to discuss and possibly take action on the All- American Canal lifeline project.

The meeting is open to the public and will be in the Condit Auditorium at 1285 Broadway in El Centro.

Staff Writer Kelly Grant can be reached at 337-3441.

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