Tuesday, November 17, 2009
Imperial County water officials plan to add new safety features to the All American Canal to help prevent migrants from drowning. When that will happen is uncertain. Immigrants rights activists say the delays are costing lives.
Imperial County water officials plan to add new safety features to the All American Canal to help prevent migrants from drowning. When that will happen, however, is uncertain. Immigrants rights activists say the delays are costing lives.
Fifteen months ago, Imperial Irrigation District officials said that all measures should be taken to make a 23-mile stretch of the canal safer.
The canal was recently lined with concrete to keep water from seeping out. The slick lining also makes it more difficult for people and animals to get out if they fall in.
John Carlos Frey is an immigrants rights activist who's lobbied for more safety measures. He says at least 17 people have drowned in the canal since Imperial Irrigation officials agreed it should be made safer.
"It would seem that you would want to make that body of water as safe as possible, as quickly as possible. There doesn't seem to be any momentum or any movement forward. We do not know when the canal will be made safe. Neither does the Imperial Irrigation District."
Mike King manages the Imperial Water Department. He says the process is just the process.
"I can't explain why it has taken so long. It's not as fast as they would like. But in the last three months, we have moved it along at a very fast pace," says King.
Officials plan to test new buoys next month. The idea is people who fall into the canal can grab onto the buoys and pull themselves to safety.
Officials also plan to light up ladders on the sides of the canal with solar beacons and glow in the dark paint. However, King cannot say when the new safety measures will be completed.
The canal runs along the U.S.-Mexico border from Yuma to just past El Centro. It carries water from the Colorado River to the Imperial Valley and San Diego.