Erosion visible at newly-constructed, private fence
Signs of erosion are already visible underneath a privately-built border fence which is less than a year old. The company that built it on a floodplain south of Mission said it's natural, but federal inspectors on Monday will be analyzing its effect on the Rio Grande.
The foamy, umber waters of the river felt at once fickle and forceful rippling under the Marianna Treviño-Wright's boat on Thursday afternoon. Local and national reporters and photographers including KRGV's Chief Meteorologist Tim Smith packed into the watercraft and headed to the peninsula south of Treviño-Wright's property, the National Butterfly Center in Mission. She serves as the executive director there.
"What's at stake for us is the fact that this wall is built on a peninsula in the river, and we are upriver from it," Treviño-Wright said.
Shiny steel bollards poke out of the ground several feet high into the air on a nearly three-mile stretch on land privately owned by Neuhaus & Sons, according to Hidalgo County property records. The fencing was installed by North Dakota-based Fisher Industries last year, despite a temporary restraining order requested by the National Butterfly Center.
U.S. District Judge Randy Crane allowed the construction.
The fencing was done in support of the Trump Administration's concept of walls used to deter illegal activity along the border. Typically, the government's construction of similar structures can be delayed for years due to litigation. Fisher Industries' project was completed in a matter of months.
Treviño-Wright opposes the barrier on ideological grounds, but it's what can happen on the literal ground that's worrying her even more.
Deep gashes cutting through the soil connecting the river and the fence's foundation were seen during Thursday's boat ride. This kind of erosion can be natural, Smith said. "Any property along the river it's going to erode. It's just what it does. When the river rises, the property erodes — nature of the beast unless you find some way to mitigate that."
Fisher Industries sent a statement on Friday.
"Some minor erosion is not unusual with new construction projects. The small areas of occurrence do not in any way compromise the foundation or the adjacent roadway. This can occur in sandy soils where vegetation has not yet fully taken hold and rainwater runoff has occurred. It is normal to expect some added maintenance until the new ground cover can become fully established. The fence and roadway are performing as designed and are structurally sound. We are committed to the implementation of a regular maintenance program. This will address any issues that may arise so this facility will last for many years."
The erosion is only a part of the concern for neighbor Treviño-Wright.
"So, when the river floods and the water comes downstream, that fence is going to clog with debris and become completely blocked," she said. "And, that redirection of water and sheer, and sediment redistribution is going to cause actual damage to our property. And, it's going to cause potentially land loss or untold damage."
Aside from the ongoing lawsuit filed by the National Butterfly Center in Mission, Fisher Industries is simultaneously facing another one from the government.
Both expressed concern over the effect of the fencing on the river's course.
While the center fears damage from back-flow, the government is concerned with long-term consequences. The International Boundary and Water Commission is looking at "deflection points" along the fence. That could mean water is being diverted from one country to another. That would be a violation of a treaty signed with Mexico in 1970.
Attorneys for both parties will be studying if any changes will need to be made following the scheduled inspection of the site on Monday.
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