On February 21, Hidalgo County Drainage District #1 sent a letter to Representative Mike McCaul and Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly praising the existing levee-border walls and offering to help build more.
Now Representative McCaul and the Trump Administration are ready to take them up on their offer.
The letter falsely claimed that “the original intent was to complete approximately 50 miles of a river protective levee/wall for the entire length of Hidalgo County.” In fact, when Customs and Border Protection issued an Environmental Stewardship Plan in 2008 they wrote that, “The concrete flood protection structure / concrete fence will not be continuous but will be constructed in 7 distinct sections.” The total length, they said, would be 28 miles, not 50.
The Drainage District letter goes on to say that, “the partnership between Hidalgo County Drainage District No. 1 and DHS needs to be continued,” and “the continued partnership between DHS and Hidalgo County would result in an approximate 90/10 cost sharing breakdown.”
Hidalgo County would not only help build the border wall, we would help pay for it.
At the urging of concerned Hidalgo County residents on May 2 the Drainage District sent another letter, a “clarification” which read:
“The Hidalgo County Drainage District #1 Board of Directors are adamantly against the construction of a barrier or border wall along the U.S.-Mexico border- including levee-border walls – and believes the logic behind the plan to be dangerously flawed and ill informed.”
Hidalgo County Drainage District #1 should be commended for issuing this.
Unfortunately their earlier letter has already done its damage, and the “clarification” has gone unnoticed.
Representative McCaul and our own Senator John Cornyn are circulating a draft version of what they call the “Building America’s Trust through Border and National Security Act.” In contains many cruel provisions, including expanding refugee and immigrant detention and forcing the adult sponsors of refugee children to wear an ankle monitor.
It also contains levee-border walls:
“Not later than 1 year after the date of the enactment of this Act, the Secretary shall construct 30 miles of levee wall in the Border Patrol’s Rio Grande Valley sector in addition to such fencing and levees in existence as of such date of enactment.”
Trump’s 2018 budget proposal also contains $1.6 billion for border walls. The New York Times reports that levee-border walls in the Rio Grande Valley will be included in that massive outlay.
Trump wants border walls, any border walls that he can get, so that he can claim a victory and distract people from the many scandals that already threaten to engulf his Presidency.
In either case new levee-border walls would inflict tremendous damage.
Border walls built into Hidalgo County’s levees would separate the historic La Lomita Mission from the town of Mission that was named in its honor.
Levee-border walls would also cut off Santa Ana National Wildlife Refuge’s visitor center from its trails, and do the same to the Bentsen Rio-Grande Valley State Park and World Birding Center.
From an environmental standpoint levee-border walls are the worst border wall design.
During a flood normal earthen levees with a gentle slope on both sides allow terrestrial animals to run up and over them to escape rising waters. But animals cannot get over a vertical concrete slab. After the flooding of 2010 inundated sections of the Lower Rio Grande Valley National Wildlife Refuge in Hidalgo County for up to four months where levees had been turned into border walls, the U.S. fish and Wildlife Service reported that,
“The floodwall blocked almost all egress [from refuge tracts] for terrestrial wildlife species. […] Hundreds of shells of Texas Tortoise have been found demonstrating the probability of mortality for species which could not retreat from rising water levels. The Service fears any ocelots or jaguarundi that may have been caught in these areas when water began to rise may have been malnourished, injured, or perished.”
Now Senator John Cornyn, Representative Mike McCaul, and Donald Trump want to build more of the same.
Because Hidalgo County asked for them.
Levee-border walls will hit the districts of Representatives Henry Cuellar and Vicente Gonzalez, and we need to make sure they are loud and clear in their rejection of these border walls and all other border walls.
We need to correct Cornyn, McCaul, and Trump’s false belief that we support levee-border walls.
We need to make noise.
We can stop these walls.
Editor’s Note: The main image accompanying this guest column was taken by Scott Nicol, author of the above guest column.