Associated Press / Houston Chronicle
November 7, 2008
DALLAS — Homeland Security officials have decided to halt building three segments of the border fence in the Rio Grande Valley for this year, U.S. Rep. Henry Cuellar said late Friday.
Concerns over the structure leading to more debris in the river and increasing the potential for flooding caused U.S. Customs and Border Protection to defer plans. The hydraulic issues of building in the river's flood plain had been highlighted by the International Boundary and Water Commission, Cuellar said.
The segments in Rio Grande City and Roma in Starr County and Los Ebanos in Hidalgo County add up to just over 14 miles, Cuellar said.
"I think the Valley will receive this as great news," he said.
The Department of Homeland Security planned to build "movable" fencing in the three areas, where communities abut the river. Los Ebanos, best-known for its historic hand-pulled ferry across the Rio Grande, would have been the most affected.
By stopping the project in those segments for now, Cuellar hopes it will allow for reassessment.
"We're hoping that this will allow us to work with the next president to find ... alternative methods for security," he said.
Questions about the border fence were referred to a CBP spokeswoman, who did not immediately respond to calls for comment Friday.
Cuellar, a member of the House Homeland Security Committee, said his office learned of CBP's decision Friday afternoon.
The No Border Wall Coalition praised the decision to stop construction, saying already-built portions of the project have destabilized flood control levees in South Texas.
"It is our hope that this will be made permanent by the new administration," the group said in a statement.
The government has built hundreds of miles of pedestrian fencing and vehicle barriers along the U.S.-Mexico border.
Congress had called for 670 miles of barriers along the U.S.-Mexico border to be completed by the end of the year. But recently, Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff said having all the fence sections under contract by the end of the year is more likely.