Thursday, April 9, 2009

Construction begins on first standard segment of fence within city limits

Brownsville Herald
April 9, 2009
Kevin Seiff

When Brownsville residents and politicians started protesting the border fence two years ago, it was no more than a red line drawn on a federal government map.

This week, those plans became very real, as construction began on the first standard segment of fencing within city limits.

Twenty-foot steel beams are up now at the end of Palm Boulevard, just a half mile from downtown Brownsville. Weston Solutions of Houston is building the segment and two others in the area - a total of 8.2 miles of fencing - for $28.5 million.

About 50 men continued work on the project Wednesday morning. Some came from as far as Del Rio, where they were recruited by a subcontractor.

"It's a job," said one worker, who wouldn't give his name. "Right now work isn't that easy to find. That's why we're here."

The segment currently under construction is one of the few stretches of fencing south of the International Boundary and Water Commission's (IBWC) levee. A 1970 binational treaty prohibits any construction along the levees that would obstruct the flow of the Rio Grande.

But IBWC spokeswoman Sally Spener said the barrier "won't create any additional obstruction or deflection because the (Amigoland levee) is already there."

As a result, Spener said, the IBWC agreed to permit construction south of the levee.

The construction on the barrier has accelerated in the Lower Rio Grande Valley in the last few months. Some segments of fencing are nearly complete in the El Calaboz-Ranchito area, just west of Brownsville.

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