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IID votes 4-1 against lifelines in All-American

June 12, 2001|By KELLY GRANT, Staff Writer

The Imperial Irrigation District Board of Directors voted 4-1 Monday against installing lifelines in the All-American Canal.

Much of the discussion at the special meeting revolved around a safety study on the proposed lifelines released last week.

The report by Gary Buffington of American Safety Consulting of Los Angeles concludes the ropes wouldn't save lives and may actually bring more drownings by encouraging people to try crossing with a "false sense of security."

As the discussion began, board President Andy Horne asked IID legal counsel Orlando Foote if the study's existence would increase the district's liability if it were to install lifelines.

Foote replied that yes, "the liability is possibly increased."

Lifeline proponent John Hunter of San Diego was critical of the safety study.

"It's a farce. I believe it was a political setup," Hunter said.

"It allows you (the board) to conveniently backslide into the moral dilemma you were in in January," Hunter said.

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Hunter called Buffington, who was not at Monday's meeting, "a hack who has no credentials in this area."

Saying Buffington has no credentials in hydrology, Hunter questioned some of the report's mathematic calculations.

Rob Fryer of Solana Beach also questioned the report.

Fryer said Buffington assumes lifelines will attract more people to cross the All-American Canal but offers no evidence to back it.

"I don't find the things in here (in the report) substantiated much," Fryer said.

"He has made his major conclusion something that isn't even in his purview," Fryer said.

Horne also expressed displeasure with the report.

"It certainly was not satisfying or gratifying to read these conclusions," Horne said.

Buffington writes in the report that Foote asked him to conduct a study examining Hunter's lifeline proposal, its implementation and the possibility of alternatives. Foote asked Buffington to include his opinions concerning the project's effectiveness.

IID Director Bruce Kuhn explained the liability the district would face if someone were to drown while using the lifelines precludes their installation.

"It's a crappy place to find yourself," Kuhn said.

"We can't save human lives for fear of liability," Kuhn added.

Director Stella Mendoza said her priority is IID's liability. She corrected Hunter when he accused board members of killing immigrants.

"It's not our fault," Mendoza said.

Director Lloyd Allen said he has thought all along that lifelines "will induce people to come."

Allen said he thought Hunter was unfair in blaming the directors for deaths in the All-American. The directors are doing what is in IID's best interest, he said.

Hunter told the board he'd purchased insurance for the lifeline project four months ago.

Foote responded he had no documentation indicating IID was insured.

Kuhn made a motion to not proceed with the lifeline project "with absolute disgust in a legal system that allows this to happen," he said.

"I cannot allow this to go forward because it puts the district at risk," Kuhn said.

Mendoza seconded the motion "with a heavy heart," she said.

In a roll call vote, all directors except Rudy Maldonado voted not to proceed with the lifeline project.

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

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