Two more victims of the Kern River, missing for weeks, were identified Wednesday, bringing the total number of deaths in the Kern River this year to 10.
Two Kern County supervisors have some ideas about how to make the river safer.
Supervisor David Couch wants to explore the possibility of charging people who are rescued from the river for the cost of the rescue.
And Supervisor Mike Maggard said he wants to explore installation of signs in high-risk areas on the Kern River that would warn visitors about the risk of drowning.
On Tuesday, the Board of Supervisors directed county administrators to investigate both ideas and bring back a plan.
Couch said he needs a lot more information about what it takes to field annual search and rescue efforts on the Kern River, which winds from Tulare County, through Kern County, across federal park land and into the city of Bakersfield’s jurisdiction.
Rescues on the river are different, he said, than efforts to save people involved in car accidents.
People choose to go into the river despite the obvious dangers and the constant warnings.
Right now the Kern County Sheriff’s Office coordinates volunteer search and rescue teams on the upper and lower Kern River and the county foots the bill when someone needs a rescue.
What does it take to equip those teams, make sure they have the correct training, keep them supplied with food, water and other resources?
Who supervises the volunteers?
What other resources are used in rescues?
Once the answers to those questions are in place, Couch said, the county would be able to judge whether a penalty might work well as a deterrent for people who choose to go into the river despite the obvious dangers and warnings.
The side benefit would be the county could recover its costs.
Couch said he got the idea from his daughter who lives in Boise, Idaho, where signs line the Snake River warning people they could be liable for the cost of their rescue if they get themselves in a dangerous situation.
Couch’s proposal resonates with Maggard’s idea to add signs along the river.
Maggard often rides bicycles in the area Hart Park, Lake Ming and Lake Ming campground.
“When I am in the park and in the campground, sometimes I see crowds of hundreds at the beach” on the river, he said.
He often sees dozens of small children younger than 10 years old playing in the shallows just yards from overwhelming river currents.
“There’s no way people are aware of the danger or they wouldn’t do this to their children,” Maggard said.
Maggard said people need to be made aware of the dangers the river poses as it runs by some of Kern County’s most public recreational facilities.
A sign at the mouth of the Kern River Canyon that tallies the number of lives lost in the past several decade, Maggard said, doesn’t help people recreating at Hart Park or Lake Ming.
Putting up signs that clearly state the deadly nature of the river in a handful of critical spots in those areas could make a big difference.
Maggard has been going to Hart Park since he was a child.
The river this year, he said, is the highest he can ever remember seeing it.
Three people have died after getting in the river at Hart Park this year: Larry Holguin of Bakersfield, Teresa Garcia of Los Angeles and Kim Phov of Simi Valley.
One other person, Juan Torrez of Bakersfield, is missing from the Lake Ming campground.
Phov was identified on Wednesday after her body was pulled from the river on July 13.
She had been rafting with family without a personal flotation device.
Editor's note: Kern County Supervisor Mick Gleason represents the area around Hart Park and Lake Ming. A previous version of this story identified the incorrect supervisor.