Calexico mayors discuss efforts to develop the New River and the deal with R.W. Beck

October 23, 2001|By AARON CLAVERIE, Staff Writer

CALEXICO — Mayor Victor Carrillo, City Manager Richard Inman and seven former mayors of this city talked Saturday about past efforts to develop the New River basin and the deal the city has brokered with Seattle-based R.W. Beck.

Recently, the city paid Beck $150,000 to solicit grants from charitable organizations to pay for the lining and tubing of a stretch of the river from the border to Highway 98.

In the past, former Calexico councils and community groups have looked at similar proposals to deal with the river but none came to fruition.

Former Mayor Fernando Arguelles started Saturday's roundtable discussion.

"When I was on the council in the late '70s we had a (study commissioned) for a golf course project in the river bottom that would put the river in a piping system and take that blighted area out of there," he said.


"We couldn't get funding at that time."

Arguelles was asked if the federal government supported the city's plans to develop the river basin.

"The federal government has not come through and helped us resolve that problem. It's more of a federal problem than a state or local problem," he said.

Former Mayor Frank Herrera said, "In 1974-75, we considered a $600,000 proposal that would have put the water in pipes and a wilderness park on top of that" as well as a lake, he added.

Herrera said the project required the city to provide matching funds, which was a sticking point.

Councilman Javier Alatorre weighed in.

"The problem is no one has moved this project on the federal level," he said. "The priorities are in San Diego and not here.

"I think the only reason that we are having some success now is that we brought this company (R.W. Beck) that has the connections — political and economic. They know how to do things and they are the ones moving the project," he added.

Carrillo said, "Imperial County itself doesn't have the political power to make an impact on the election of representatives that represent local interests.

Carrillo questioned the support the New River issue has received from congressional leaders who represent the Imperial Valley.

Inman said, The United States has "invested $200 million in federal money in the Tijuana River because of the political clout of San Diego and it hasn't worked.

"The Tijuana River is one-10th the flow of the New River," he said.

When current and past city officials were asked if they thought Mexico could be paid to make cleaning the river worth its while, Inman said, "Five U.S. presidents and five Mexican presidents have talked about cleaning up the New River for the past 50 years and it never happened."

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