Friday, July 29, 2011

$24.4M for Arizona fence repairs

Arizona Daily Star
July 28, 2011
by Brady McCombs

Border fences, roads and lighting are not only expensive to build, they are costly to repair and maintain.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection has issued a $24.4 million contract to a private firm to perform repairs and maintenance on border barriers, roads, lighting and electrical systems along Arizona’s border with Mexico, announced Rep. Gabrielle Giffords’ office.

The contract is the largest of four regionally based agreements that Customs and Border Protection has to maintain fences and roads, said Customs and Border Protection spokeswoman Jenny Burke.

It is a one year contract for $7.7 million with two additional one-year options that would make it worth $24.4 million, she said.

The contact — awarded to Houston-based Kellog Brown & Root — includes repairs and maintenance of five areas:

• Fences and gates

• Roads and bridges

• Lighting and electrical systems

• Drainage and grates

• Vegetation control and debris removal

Giffords’ chief of staff, Pia Carusone, applauded the contract, noting that it’s essential that border infrastructure be properly and fully maintained.

Customs and Border Protection agency spends an estimated $97 million annually on this work across the border, Burke said. The 20-year life-cycle costs of maintaining the fences, roads, lighting is estimated at about $6.5 billion, the Government Accountability Office reported in 2009.

The federal government spent $2.4 billion to build 264 miles of pedestrian fencing and 226 miles of vehicle barriers from 2004-2009, the GAO has found. Today, there are a total of 350 miles of pedestrian fences and 299 miles of vehicle barriers along the nearly 2,000-mile U.S.-Mexico border.

More than four-fifths of Arizona's 378 miles of Mexican border have some type of border barrier. There are 123 miles of pedestrian fences, 12- to 25-foot-high barriers designed to stop, or at least slow down, people. There are another 183 miles of vehicle barriers, waist- to chest-high barricades designed to stop cars.

It cost between $2.6 million to $7.4 million per mile to build the new barriers in Arizona. The most recent project, replacing 2.8 miles of old fence in Nogales, cost $4.14 million per mile.

Customs and Border Protection officials acknowledge that fences are not a panacea, but say they help deter, slow and funnel traffic. The impact of barriers on illegal immigration and drug smuggling is unknown because it has not been measured, according to a September 2009 GAO report.

The buildup of fences and roads along the border could have environmental consequences, too. Fencing has caused flooding and erosion, and it could be fragmenting wildlife habitat.

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