Friday, August 24, 2012

IBWC to hold public forum next week to discuss border wall plans

Rio Grande Guardian
August 22, 2012
by Raul de la Cruz

RIO GRANDE CITY, August 22 - The No Border Wall group is urging South Texas residents to attend a key public forum being held next week to disseminate more information on new border walls.

The U.S. Section of the International Boundary and Water Commission has approved new border walls for Roma, Rio Grande City and Los Ebanos.

“This may be the last chance for Rio Grande Valley residents to ask hard questions of the U.S. IBWC before border walls are built in the floodplain,” said Scott Nicol, a co-founder of No Border Wall.

The public forum is being hosted by the U.S. section of the IBWC. It will be held next Wednesday, Aug. 29, at the Holiday Day Inn Express Hotel & Suites, 5274 East Hwy 83, in Rio Grande City. The forum will start at 6 p.m.

The welcome and introductions will be made by John L. Merino, an IBWC principal engineer. The project description will be made by Jose Nunez, an IBWC supervisory civil engineer. The hydraulic modeling analysis discussion will be led by Dr. Padrinare Unnikrishna, an IBWC lead hydraulic engineer.

Nicol said that when U.S. Customs and Border Protection built identical border walls to those planned for Roma, Rio Grande City, and Los Ebanos in Cameron County, the U.S. section of the IBWC forced CBP to erect them behind the levees, cutting off thousands of acres of private land and wildlife refuges. “So, why is U.S. IBWC now saying that these border walls will not pose a flood hazard and can sit in the floodplain?” Nicol asked.

Nicol recently visited the San Pedro Riparian National Conservation Area in Arizona to view similar border walls to those being proposed for Roma, Rio Grande City and Los Ebanos. He provided the Guardian with a photo of the border wall in San Pedro.

“In one instance, debris is (as of last Saturday) backed up six feet deep behind the wall. Sediment has filled in behind the debris, raising the floor of the wash to a height around four and a half feet higher than it is on the downstream side,” Nicol said.

“It will be interesting to see how IBWC explains how the Rio Grande during a hurricane-induced flood will deposit less debris than a wash in the sparsely vegetated Sonora desert.”

Nicol questioned analysis by the U.S. section of the IBWC which says the border walls proposed for Roma, Rio Grande City and Los Ebanos will block no more than 25 percent of water during a hurricane.

“The flood model that U.S. IBWC's decision is based on claims that these walls will only block ten to 25 percent of flood waters after a hurricane swells the Rio Grande. But, it never explains where that figure came from,” Nicol said.

“Walls already standing in Arizona have blocked floodwaters and caused millions of dollars in damage so why does U.S. IBWC think that nearly identical walls in South Texas will have a different impact?”

Nicol said residents of Roma, Rio Grande City, and Los Ebanos who have friends and relatives living in neighboring cities across the Rio Grande should press the U.S. section of IBWC about the risk of floodwater being deflected into Mexican communities.

“This is the reason that the Mexican half of the IBWC, showing more concern for the safety of Mexican citizens than the U.S. half is showing for citizens of the United States, continues to reject walls in the floodplain,” Nicol said.

Nicol noted that the IBWC is supposed to be a bi-national organization, with approval of structures that can impact the Rio Grande agreed to by both nations. “In unilaterally approving border walls that Mexico rejects the U.S. section is violating the treaty that established the Rio Grande as the border,” he said.

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