Today, after considerable and prayerful thought, I am announcing my candidacy for director at the Imperial Irrigation District.
Ninety years ago this year, the Boulder Canyon Project Act was passed by the United States Congress. That bill was authored by Congressman Phil D. Swing, a personal hero of mine and a former General Counsel at the Imperial Irrigation District, who played an immense role in the formation of the District and the advancement of the Imperial Valley.
The Boulder Canyon Project Act forever changed the landscape of the American Southwest. As inscribed on a monument at the Hoover Dam, the principal creation of the Act, the efforts of Swing and others were “inspired by a vision of lonely lands made fruitful”, “whose genius and labor made that vision a reality.”
Our own lonely lands were best described by Harold Bell Wright, who wrote, “... the Desert waited, silent and hot and fierce in its desolation, holding its treasures under the seal of death against the coming of the strong ones; waited until the man-making forces that wrought through those long ages should have done their work; waited for this age.”
The desert was transformed by the vision of reclaiming this desolate desert into a garden, accepting people from all nations, across the United States, India, Switzerland, Greece, and the world between to take part in that great effort to make this lonely land fruitful. My great-grandfather was among those migrants — himself penniless while hitching a ride west to California on a freight train fleeing the effects of the Dust Bowl during the height of the Depression, seeking opportunity in Imperial Valley.
How was this possible? Water and vision. The pioneers of Imperial Valley were restless — they took one of the most arid and forbidding areas in the world and turned it into one of the most agriculturally productive by taming the wild Colorado River with the Hoover Dam and diverting its calmed waters to the Imperial Valley via the 80 mile All-American Canal dug with mules and Fresno scrapers; this after battling the raging Colorado River for two years as the “menace” flooded the Valley, creating the Salton Sea.
Generations have enjoyed the fruits of these pioneers’ efforts — each and every one of us owes a debt of gratitude to those before us who created the Imperial Valley through sweat, toil, vision, and water.
Today, I seek to repay that debt and dedicate my work to not just the protection of the great works of pioneers for generations to come, but to inspire a vision for even greater things for our Valley.
Dalip Singh Saund, another hero of mine, was the first Asian-American member of Congress, himself a native of India and an immigrant to the United States, who chose to settle and farm in Westmorland. He endured great discrimination at a time when Asians were excluded from American citizenship and land ownership. Despite this, his patriotism and service to the Valley were unwavering. As he ultimately ran for Congress, he was fond of saying, “I am not running against anybody; all I’m asking for is [the opportunity to serve] and it’s up to you to judge whether I deserve your support or not.”
Like Saund, I am not running against anybody — I feel compelled to serve this Valley in a role I have been prepared to give back in. To protect what we have been so richly given, improve it for future generations, and through vision and work sow the seeds for fruit we may not even get to enjoy ourselves.
The core claim in my campaign is “Water is Life.” Without it, this Valley has nothing. We return to the silent, hot, and fierce desolation that Wright wrote about over a century ago. To protect our Valley’s future, we must have a vision for its future and work tirelessly and uncompromisingly to ensure our Valley’s water stays in our Valley.
I want to thank all those that have helped to make this campaign possible, who pledge their time, hands, and hearts to this shared effort to protect and improve our Imperial Valley. I look forward to meeting and befriending as many members of the community as possible, wearing out shoe leather and sleepless nights in this effort. I look forward to the challenge of the work ahead and the opportunity to serve.