Unfinished border barriers pose environmental challenges
In response, gates were added to areas prone to cross-border flash floods. But to prevent borderers from entering the monument through the floodgates, some doors were welded, Rutman said, with the idea that someone would open them before any flooding occurred.
âTheir ignorance and unwavering resistance to us telling them anything was so strong that they kept doing really stupid things,â she said. “It seems to me that there have been no lessons learned.”
Morawe, like many conservationists, is concerned about how the barrier will affect desert flooding.
It highlights the seasonal flooding in areas where no valves have been installed and questions the effectiveness of those that are in place. Once the border fence is handed over from the US Army Corps of Engineers, the agency overseeing the construction, to Border Patrol, Morawe hopes there will be changes in operations to allow officers to at least manage the valves effectively.
âI think they’re betting that the boundary fence is going to let more water through, which is true. It will, “he said.” But you’re still going to see debris hitting that fence and eventually collecting water. ”
âWhen you look at that, some of these people who design this never saw a 2,000 pound saguaro float like a toothpick, you know, under a flood and hit their fence.
âMaybe it will be okay. Maybe not. We will see.”
In addition to infrastructure issues, ongoing environmental management has become a concern in barrier construction areas.
The Trump administration bypassed regular environmental reviews before building. The administration issued exemptions related to the construction of the border wall under the REAL ID Act of 2005.
According to the Center for Biological Diversity, this has led to bypass 32 laws in Arizona including Endangered Species Act, Federal Water Pollution Control Act, Safe Drinking Water Act, National Environmental Policy Act, Law of 1939 on the Salvage Project, Fish and Wildlife Coordination Act and Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act.
The REAL ID Act was created in the aftermath of September 11 as a tool for the federal government to fight terrorism and crime. However, it also gave significant power to the Secretary of Homeland Security, who was given “the power to waive all legal requirements … necessary to ensure the rapid construction” of a southern border wall.
There is precedent for the Trump administration’s use of the REAL ID Act to build border walls. He has been cited four times by Michael Chertoff, Secretary of Homeland Security to George W. Bush, for construction work on the southern border.
Despite waiving these environmental protections, Rob Daniels, public affairs specialist for Customs and Border Protection in Arizona, said in an email that the agency “is committed to responsible stewardship of the environment and engages in environmental planning for all construction projects – including the construction of border barriers.
Environmentalists are skeptical.
Rutman, the retired organ pipe botanist, remembers early interactions with the Border Patrol as they stepped up efforts in the mid-1990s to slow a sudden influx of undocumented migrants crossing the border into the monument.
âFairly early on, we still thought we could influence what the border patrol was doing,â she said. âBut that turned out to be wrong. Park Service had almost no influence on what the border patrol did or did not do.
Despite a 2006 deal that the Border Patrol would document and report off-road use by officers to the National Park Service, wildlife cameras showed that Border Patrol officers only reported a fraction of the times they did. were leaving the roads.
Morawe tried to be optimistic about the possibilities of the barrier protecting the Wilderness, assuming contractors were allowed to return to work and begin to mitigate potential problems.
âLet’s make sure it’s as functional as possible, so that Border Patrol can use it as it’s intended to be used,â he said.
Securing the border along the Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument has not been easy. Before the vehicle barriers were put in place in 2006, Morawe said people just left Mexico’s Federal Highway 2, a few hundred yards from the park’s border, and headed north into the desert to ‘their cars break down. They then continued on foot.
âWe took out a lot of vehicles to try and get them out of the wild,â Morawe said.
If the border patrol is able to effectively use the wall to prevent undocumented immigrants from entering the park, apprehending them before they leave the Roosevelt reservation, he said, it would lessen the damage done by border patrol agents chasing people deep into protected wilderness areas.
âI always wish there was a better way to do things than to have a fence,â said Morawe. âBut we have it now. We have to deal with it. And that will be our new reality in the future.
However, it is difficult to say what this reality will look like.
âWe are doing this day to day,â Morawe said. “We do not know.”
Cronkite Borderlands Project is a multimedia reporting program in which students cover human rights, immigration, and border issues in the United States and abroad in English and Spanish.