Hundreds of immigrants have died trying to cross California canal, officials say
The All-American Canal has long been known as an engineering, hydrological and agricultural marvel, delivering enormous amounts of Colorado River water to arid Imperial County and turning a desert into one of the world's most productive farming regions.
But in recent years, it has had another reputation: the spot where hundreds of people have drowned, most of them undocumented migrants from Mexico trying desperately to cross the canal on their way north.
By most estimates, more than 500 people have drowned in the canal since it was completed in 1942. The peak year was 1998, when 31 died.
Now, after much controversy and some reluctance, the governmental owners and operators of the canal have begun a safety push along the 82-mile gravity-flow conveyance, long stretches of which parallel the border.
-- Tony Perry and Richard Marosi
Photo: Kynan Barrios of the U.S. Bureau of Land Management demonstrates the use of a rescue pack along the All-American Canal about five miles west of Calexico. Credit: Joselito Villero / Imperial Valley Press