The U.S. Department of Justice and the Immigration
and Naturalization Service have announced that a hovercraft
manufactured by Neoteric Hovercraft, Inc., Terre Haute, Indiana,
is an integral part of their new border security and safety
Chris Fitzgerald, President of Neoteric Hovercraft, Inc.,
delivered a hovercraft this month to the INS Border Patrol
in El Centro, California, where he conducted operational training.
Fitzgerald states, "The use of emerging hovercraft technology
for border security is representative of the solid commitment
President Bush has made to creating a more secure United States."
Fitzgerald has invited President Bush to the formal opening
of first World Symposium on Hovercraft Rescue, to be held
September 16 at Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology in Terre
Haute. The Symposium is being held in conjunction with 2002
World Hovercraft Week, for which Fitzgerald is serving as
Chairman. For information about World Hovercraft Week and
the first World Symposium on Hovercraft Rescue, go to www.PictureTrail.com/whc2002
In a May 23 announcement of the hovercraft deployment and
other new security measures, INS Commissioner James Ziglar
said, "These latest steps represent a major breakthrough
in the ongoing effort to make the southern border safer for
people of both nations. We are committed to doing everything
possible to making our southern border safer and more secure,
and that should be reassuring for citizens of both nations."
Border Patrol agents will use the hovercraft to patrol the
All-American Canal, an agricultural channel that divides the
United States and Mexico in California's Imperial Valley,
150 miles east of San Diego. This area, designated as a "high-risk
zone" by the INS and Mexico, is the primary focus of
the new security program. Dozens of illegal immigrants have
drowned in recent years in the Canal, and many more were rescued.
Located in a rural area, the Canal is used by migrant smugglers
in order to avoid heavier border security around San Diego.
The All-American Canal transports 3.1 million acre-feet of
water annually from the Colorado River into California's Imperial
Valley, delivering water and hydroelectric power to nine cities
and 500,000 acres of agricultural land. Rescue operations
are complicated by the deceptively swift water, the steep
banks, the turbines used for hydroelectric generation, and
the intricate system of drops and gates throughout the Canal.
Additionally, the Imperial Valley Water Authority has not
previously permitted boat patrols on the Canal due to concern
about bank erosion from wash. Fitzgerald explains, "Hovercraft
were chosen due to their ability to conduct safe rescues in
such adverse conditions. They can travel over any surface,
and operate particularly well in fast-moving water. Hovercraft
can enter the Canal over the steep banks with minimal bank
preparation, can be easily trailered around the drops and
gates, and they eliminate the problem of bank erosion because
they create little wake. Additionally, hovercraft don't pollute
the water with oil, as boats do."
As border patrol plays an increasingly important role in
homeland security, Fitzgerald expects that hovercraft will
be more widely used. He explains, "Hovercraft can serve
a vital role in the lakes along the northern U.S. borders.
First responders worldwide have recognized their value in
performing fast, safe rescues on swift water, ice, snow, and
partially frozen waters when other vehicles cannot. And hovercraft
are more cost-effective than helicopters."
Neoteric Hovercraft, Inc. has been manufacturing rescue,
commercial and recreational hovercraft since 1975. First responder
agencies and other organizations utilizing Neoteric Hovercraft
include the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers; Anchorage International
Airport; Heilongjung River Commission and Huaihe River Commission,
China; National Institute of Environmental Research, Korea;
Esso Petroleum, Colombia, South America; and fire, sheriff
and search and rescue departments throughout the United States.