Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Downed border fence caused city damage

Associated Press
September 23, 2014
by Astrid Galvan

TUCSON, Ariz. (AP) -- A southern Arizona city that spent days cleaning storm-related debris - including parts of trees - from Mexico that knocked down an international border fence is asking the federal government to cover costs.

Nogales Mayor Arturo Garino said the city council has directed its attorneys to work with the federal government in an attempt to regain what it spent cleaning up large tree trunks and branches that made their way from a canyon in Sonora, Mexico, through the border fence and into two trailer home parks and businesses in the Arizona city in late July.

Garino says it was the government's responsibility to open flood gates attached to the tall, steel fence that would have prevented so much debris from making it into the city.

"As a city, you know, we want to make sure that this doesn't happen again. The cause of this was the fence. We have to have some system there that's operational and it's functional," Garino said.

Garino said he couldn't provide an estimate for the cost of the cleanup effort. However, the Nogales International reports that city officials have estimated $23,000 in costs.

Meanwhile, the fence, just west of the Mariposa Port of Entry, remains down because of continuing rainfall, Border Patrol spokeswoman Nicole Ballistrea said. The soil needs to be completely dry before the fence can go back up, she said. The fence stood between 18 and 26 feet high, extended at least 7 feet underground and was reinforced with rebar. The debris knocked down about 60 feet worth of fencing.

"The late hour and sudden onslaught of the storm did not leave adequate lead time for agents to safely release the gates," Ballistrea said. "We'll continue with the repairs once the saturation level has (dropped)."

The storm in Nogales, Sonora, began the weekend of July 25 but largely avoided the American side of the border. Still, debris from a canyon about a mile south of Nogales, Arizona, traveled up to the border and became trapped at the fence. Enough debris piled up that it knocked the fence over. In came tree stumps, pieces of wood, and about three feet of water that flooded businesses on Western Avenue in Nogales and two trailer home parks.

"I remember helping one group pull out a tree that was 12-feet-long, 16 inches in diameter, underneath the trailer," Garino said.

It took the city, county and volunteers three days to clean up the mess.

"That's why we're trying to address the federal government, because if you look at it you would see that if the gates would have opened it would have been a casual flow. The amount of water that fell wasn't enough for it to cause a flood," Garino said.

Friday, September 5, 2014

One month later: gap still in U.S. Mexico border fence from monsoon

Tucson News Now
August 27, 2014
by Maria Hechanova

NOGALES, AZ (Tucson News Now) - There is still a big gap in the U.S.-Mexico border fence in Nogales, Arizona just west of the Mariposa Port of Entry.

It has been one month since the monsoon dumped a lot of rain in a small area in a short amount of time. The large amount of rushing water crossed the border and drained from Mexico into the U.S. in this area taking the fence down with it.

Tucson Sector U.S. Border Patrol agents say the reason for the delay is because contractors are waiting to fix the fence when the ground is less saturated.

The estimated repair date is still to be determined, though contractors have already assessed the damage and determined how the repairs need to be made.

Weather-related border fence damage does not happen often. According to officials, the last time something like this took place was back in 2011 in Lukeville, in western Pima County.

Right now, agents are continuing to monitor the section of missing fence in Nogales on the ground and with cameras to make sure there is not a security threat or breach. Though according to one BP agent on the scene there have been people trying to cross over into the U.S. via the hole, on foot.

According to agents, it is an already highly visible spot and no extra resources are necessary to keep it safe. Agents already assigned to the area are just keeping a closer eye on it.

The fence, which agents say can range from 18 to 26 feet tall in the area is made of steel, rebar, and concrete and is set deep in the ground. They say it would not make any sense to put the fence up now, because the foundation would not set correctly or hold up well in the next storm.

It is unclear if any modifications will be made to the original design to make the fence stronger or prevent an event like this from happening again.  There is also no word yet on how much the repairs will cost.