- The Washington Times - Friday, July 21, 2006

The late statesman Paul Nitze crafted, early in the Cold War, the strategy by which the United States could win that conflict. It took almost half a century, but Nitze lived to see his plan bear fruit as the Soviet Union collapsed.

Unfortunately, Americans now seem reluctant, in fighting difficult issues of our day, to take the same long-term approach that worked so well in fighting the Cold War. We must do so, however, if we wish to prevent issues, still manageable today, from turning into unmanageable problems tomorrow.

In opting for quick-fix solutions that look good politically for the moment but fail to address the underlying cause of a problem, we choose to feed what may now only be a 100 pound gorilla, leaving our children and grandchildren to deal with what for them will be “the 500 pound gorilla.” No where is this more appropriate than in dealing with illegal immigration.

Obviously, illegal aliens coming into the U.S., primarily from Mexico and Central America, do so in pursuit of a better life. The long-term solution, therefore, turns on improving economic opportunities for theses people in their own countries. U.S. financial assistance will not do it and, while trade agreements will help, will also will not be enough. An international Manhattan Project-type approach is needed — one that will realistically improve conditions in those countries for increased economic growth. A world-renowned expert says the answer is simple — water.

Paul LaBonte is an experienced water engineer, having managed development and implementation of water resource asset recovery, conditioning and use for 25 years. His creativity in this field is evidenced by co-development of a patented saltwater intrusion prevention system and of the Panama Canal Lock Water Reclamation Project concept.

Worried about the vast problems awaiting future generations of Americans if we fail to take realistic steps to curb the influx of illegal aliens, he has carefully studied how best to improve economic conditions for our neighbors to the south by improving their access to water. His thought is to build, with international funding, a 3,400-mile-long aqueduct that will be sustained by collecting and treating storm water runoff and ground water production, producing clean electricity by using low-flow turbines in place of dams to minimize environmental impact.

The Trans-Latin American Aqueduct Project is no small undertaking. It is a long-term, multiphased water resource and alternative energies infrastructure development project capable of conveying about 40 billion gallons of drinking water while producing several thousand megawatts of clean electricity.

Based on his pre-feasibility analysis of satellite photography of the region, Mr. LaBonte feels confident it is doable — just as a smaller system of aqueducts well served the Mayans there centuries before. Once finished, it would open parts of many countries involved to further development, providing an enormous catalyst for steady and stable economic growth.

His plan has already been presented to the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) which believes the project warrants further study. IDB was intrigued as the project would not only be totally owned and operated by the participating countries but used too as a banking system of credits and debits based on volume use, quality and sourcing. Similar to America’s TVA during the Depression, this project would stimulate needed economic development.

To be successful, three critical pieces to this project must be assembled: (1) technical — tedious but doable; (2) financial — not insurmountable, according to international lenders; and (3) political — involving cooperation among countries that have historically demonstrated a lack of it, which may prove the most difficult.

The linchpin in moving this project forward is Mexico’s participation, upon which IDB has conditioned its further support.

Mr. LaBonte hopes by ensuring sovereign guarantees to all participating countries and full representation on an oversight committee to operate the Aqueduct, the historical and cultural concerns can be overcome.

It is clear we need a long-term approach to resolving the illegal immigration issue in this country — and that involves embarking upon a practical long-term solution to make the grass greener south of our border. This project might do just that.

James G. Zumwalt,a Marine veteran of the Persian Gulf and Vietnam wars, is a contributor to The Washington Times.

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