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New River group still waiting on funding

January 15, 2002|By AARON CLAVERIE, Staff Writer

CALEXICO — The New River Committee here will have to wait until at least the end of February to find out if a Bahamas-based group will pay more than $40 million to pipeline the polluted waterway from the border to Highway 98.

Last summer the Calexico City Council paid $150,000 to Beck Genesis, a subsidiary of Seattle's R.W. Beck, for a summary cost analysis of the pipelining plan that committee members have long advocated.

Beck Genesis representatives told the council and the New River Committee that the company would send the analysis to a Bahamas-based group holding the purse strings to millions of dollars in "humanitarian funds."

If the Bahamas group had decided to fund an environmental review of the pipelining plan, the council and committee would have known by Thanksgiving of last year, they were told. Around Thanksgiving the city and the committee were told to expect word around the middle of January.


At a New River Committee meeting Wednesday, members will be told to expect word at the end of February.

At the end of February, members will not be holding their breath, according to Luis Estrada.

Estrada is founder of the 10-member committee and manager of the city's wastewater treatment plant.

"We're not stopping if (this group) doesn't come through. There's a lot of money out there," Estrada said Tuesday.

In case the Bahamas group, a private corporation or an endowment fund does send more funds Calexico's way, the committee recently set up a non-profit organization to deposit the check. Calexico New River Committee Inc. was formed late last year, Estrada said.

Committee chairman and Imperial Irrigation District Division 5 Director Rudy Maldonado said the committee has already received more than $300,000 from three foundations.

"We're going to use that to promote education, awareness and advocacy of the New River. We'll be setting up programs to get into the schools, educate the public in general and take the battle to D.C.," he said.

While the committee may be excited about the $300,000 so far and the possibility of millions from the Bahamas group, Maldonado said, "We're still writing for other foundation money."

He said that money would be used to begin a database chronicling health issues associated with the New River.

The committee will meet at 6 p.m. in the Calexico Chamber of Commerce meeting room at the corner of highways 111 and 98.

In other business at Wednesday's meeting, the corporation's new project director will be announced.

Estrada said the job has been filled by Annette Buttner, a part-time assistant at Our Lady of Guadalupe Church in Calexico.

Estrada said Buttner will be tasked with helping sell the pipelining project to various federal and state agencies.

If the Bahamas group or some other entity bankrolls a $1 million environmental assessment of the pipelining project, all the federal and state agencies with jurisdiction over the New River would have a chance to comment on the specifics of the plan.

Buttner's job will be to sell the specifics of the plan before the environmental review process to ensure a smooth approval.

"She'll be trying to convince them that this is a good, feasible project," Estrada said.

The general outline of the plan is simple. A series of metal bars would be erected where the river flows into the U.S. from Mexico to catch trash and debris. The river would be forced into a huge pipeline that would be covered with dirt.

>> Staff Writer Aaron Claverie can be reached at 337-3419 or

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