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County inmates cleaning up slough
Tulare County Sheriff Bill Wittman says he wants to be a good neighbor when he opens the new 500-bed jail on Scranton Avenue near the Porterville Airport in a few years.
An example of “being neighborly” is ongoing today as county inmates who are on work furlough are cleaning up the littered and clogged Porter Slough through Porterville.
“We want to help this community,” vowed the sheriff as he met with the media and city manager John Lollis at H Street where it dead ends at the slough. While he talked, the county work crews loaded up a large trailer with limbs, bushes and debris found along that short portion of the slough.
“Once the jail is open, we’ll have a full-time crew here and do other projects,” said Wittman.
That jail is slated to be constructed in 2014 and open by 2016.
The three crews of four men each, have been working every Thursday since late August clearing out the slough. They began at the slough and Plano Street and plan on continuing until they reach the slough and Westwood Avenue.
The slough is not always carrying water, but when it does it is usually for underground water recharge or to take some of the pressure off of the Tule River that is carrying flood releases from Success Lake. The last time that occurred was in December of 2010 when Porterville got more than 5 inches of rain in less than three days and 8 inches during the month. The slough, which was originally an irrigation ditch, comes off the river at about Page Avenue in East Porterville.
Bill Guinn, farm manager for the Tulare County Sheriff’s Department jail facilities, said the crews had hauled off 26 loads of debris since August. He said besides a lot of tree limbs and brush, they have also taken out of the waterway mattresses, refrigerators, couches and eight shopping carts.
“Hopefully, but us keeping it clean, it will keep that down,” said Wittman.
Lollis said the slough is important to the city for several years. He said it has value aesthetically, for drainage and for water recharge. He said they probably would have sent more water down the slough in 2010 had it been able to handle more water. He said he could not remember the last time it had been cleaned.
Lollis said the work would have cost the city a lot and thanked the sheriff for the use of the men. “I can’t tell you how many parks maintenance employees would be needed to do this,” said Lollis.
Lt. Robin Skiles, who is in charge of the county jail system, said the men on the crews are all lower-level inmates who are not incarcerated in the jail, but must do work time to work off their sentences.