Binational celebration marks centennial of water coming to Imperial, Mexicali valleys

June 21, 2001|By KELLY GRANT, Staff Writer

Celebration of accomplishments and hope for a future of cooperation were recurring themes during Wednesday's centennial celebration of water flowing into the Imperial and Mexicali valleys.

The event, co-hosted by the Imperial Irrigation District and Comisión para la Preservación Cultural de Mexicali su Valle, began at Sharp's Heading in Mexicali, a critical point in the original canal system from the Colorado River. It was at Sharp's that the canal turned back toward the United States, bringing water to the Imperial Valley.

During the Mexicali presentation, Mexicali Mayor Victor Hermosillo spoke of the ways water changed the two valleys from dusty desert to fertile farmland.

Hermosillo, speaking in both English and Spanish, cited the original canal from the Colorado as an example of the two valleys working together and stressed the need for future cooperation.


Hermosillo's comments were echoed as the celebration continued at Pioneers' Museum near Imperial.

"In working together, we can accomplish great things in this region," said Imperial County Supervisor Wally Leimgruber.

Robert Johnson, regional director of the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, said while celebrating the past is always a good thing, this event is special.

"I'm always amazed when I come to things like this at what foresight, hardship and hard work these people went through to bring water to the Valley," Johnson said.

Johnson specifically addressed pending water transfers and the challenges they bring to the Imperial Valley. His outlook is optimistic.

"I think there are win-win solutions," Johnson said.

IID Board of Directors President Andy Horne, serving as master of ceremonies, read briefly from the inscription from Otis B. Tout's book "The First Thirty Years."

"To the pioneer plowmen and planters whose courage and endurance enabled them to break the spell of the desert that the people might have bread," Horne quoted Tout's book.

Families, local government officials and other local residents enjoyed the museum's extended hours for Wednesday's celebration and toured the facility, most notably the new IID exhibit that depicts flowing water.

With the words "Abundance from the desert floor" above the display, an artificial water drop extends from a photo high on the wall. The exhibit is just the first of several IID has planned for the museum.

Wednesday's celebration came 100 years to the day of water's arrival in the Imperial and Mexicali valleys.

The original main canal from the Colorado River to the Imperial Valley was almost entirely on the Mexican side of the border. While the cut into the Colorado was in the United States, the canal crossed into Mexico to avoid the sand dunes in southeastern Imperial County.

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

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