Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Who will build the fence?

U.S. government awards 3 contracts for border barrier construction

Brownsville Herald
September 23, 2008

Contracts to build the border fence in Cameron County were awarded to three private companies Monday, after Congress approved a $378 million appropriations request to continue the barrier's construction.

Despite longstanding opposition from the county's residents and politicians, construction could begin soon on the Texas border's southernmost stretch.

The contracts are for fence segments in Bluetown, Los Indios, El Calaboz and La Paloma, all rural communities established by 18th century Spanish land grants. The communities are now home to some of the border fence's most vociferous opponents, many of whom have been fighting the barrier in court for nearly a year.

Clute, Texas-based Jaco Construction, Colorado-based MCC Construction and Omaha-based Kiewit Corporation were each awarded contracts to build a total of 7.6 miles of fencing for almost $37 million.

The government must now clear mounting judicial obstacles in order to meet Congress' mandate to build 670 miles of fencing by Dec. 31. So far, 340 miles of fencing have been constructed along the southwest border.

Ninety-seven landowners in the Rio Grande Valley have refused to sell their property to the federal government, according to a Government Accountability Office report released Sept. 10.

Some of those property owners, including Eloisa Tamez of El Calaboz, wonder how contracts can be awarded before lawsuits have been resolved.

"(Homeland Security Secretary) Chertoff is going completely outside of the Constitution, not allowing the federal court to make its decision before he moves on," Tamez said.

Cameron County Judge Carlos H. Cascos said he had always maintained that DHS was going to build "something" if the county did not offer an alternative to them.

"I still think that the border/levee combo project was a viable alternative, and I'm just saddened that DHS thought it was not," Cascos said. "For now, we are just going to wait and see what the fence is going to look like."

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security did not announce when construction is expected to begin in Cameron County.


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