HIDALGO, RGV – Border Patrol’s Marine division has found another tunnel built to go under the Border Wall, this time in Hidalgo, Texas.
The tunnel, measuring 60 feet in length, had been dug on the embankment of the Rio Grande close to a border wall constructed ten years ago.
Had it not been discovered it would have gone under the Border Wall on land owned by Texas Fish & Wildlife, just 2,000 feet downriver from Hidalgo Water Improvement District No. 3’s pump station.
State lawmakers visiting the Rio Grande Valley might have had a chance to see the tunnel last Friday but Border Patrol advised them not to complete a planned visit to the water district due to the presence of drug cartel members on the other side of the Rio Grande brandishing rifles and dressed in camouflage.
The tunnel is set to be blown up with dynamite within the next week or two.
Asked if he was impressed by the ingenuity of the tunnel diggers, Hidalgo County Water Improvement District No. 3 general manager Othal Brand, Jr., said: “I am astounded. That is some impressive work, it is not easy work building a tunnel like that.”
“The cliff they dug through is a soft sand. The diggers push a piece of pipe into the earth and as they do they remove the sand. As they do that they keep pushing the pipe in. Once they get far enough in they erect these 4x4s and plywood on each side and the top.”
Asked where the tunnel would have led to, Brand said: “It was going under the Border Wall. On the other side of the entrance to our premises is a small shopping mall and to the left of that is a sports rental place. It was going straight to the sports rental business. Our suspicion is they were going to come up in one of these rental units and store their stuff there and just pick it up when they want. They were deep enough to go under that wall without any problem.”
Brand said he was called by Border Patrol to see if his men could collapse the tunnel but Brand said an explosion company was needed. Such a company, from Bandera, Texas, is coming down soon.
“My men climbed down and looked at it. It needs dynamite to blow it. I would like to praise the Marine division of Border Patrol. Boots on the ground would not have seen it. Helicopters would not have found it. Drones, sensors, would never have found it. You could only see it from the river. They looked at the cliff and found it. It was all covered up with bamboo and brush. It looked kind of dry, which alerted them to it.”
Brand said he was really looking forward to a visit by state legislators last Friday afternoon. They were touring the area as part of the Valley Legislative Tour hosted by the Rio Grande Valley Partnership.
However, a few hours before the visit, HCWID No. 3 employees noticed a couple of drug runners on the other side of the Rio Grande wearing camouflage and brandishing rifles.
“We had scheduled for the Texas legislators to come down and visit the station to see the wall and see the river on Friday at about 4:45. About two or three hours before their arrival we had two men on the Mexican side of the river brandish rifles towards our employees,” Brand said.
“For us on he river, that means, move from where you are because we bringing people or drugs or whatever. Our boat ramp is most convenient place to cross when you have cliffs on one side and 30 feet of rocked area on the other side for half a mile. It is the easiest point of entry. They did not come across but they did brandish their rifles, they were in camouflage. We quietly moved the men away for their safety until they left.”
Brand said in some ways he would have liked the visiting lawmakers to see what his workers have to put up with every day.
“I think it would have been kind of selfish on my part to say, why don’t you come down here and be in danger with us. Border Patrol agents were on the bus with the legislators and they thought it was probably not a wise idea to come. They continued on their tour with another scheduled event.”
Asked if the drug runners knew the legislators were coming, Brand laughed. “They had no idea. It was purely coincidental. It would be a pretty phenomenal thing if they were that well coordinated.”
Brand says his workers see drug and human traffickers hanging up in trees across the river quite a lot. “They have lookouts. They are waiting to see if there is a time when Border Patrol is not there.”
Mexican Side of the Border Wall
Brand had made sure the water improvement district premises was clean and tidy for the legislative visit.
“We would have shown the visiting legislators what life is like on the border. We have a real clean facility right now. They would have seen the wall and the river. The main thing I wanted to share with them is that the water districts, 25 in the Valley, supply virtually all the water to the cities in the Valley and we are below the wall. There is not been any consideration of trying to protect the most precious resource we have, which is water. The ability to deliver it and it to be safe. If I had nothing else to say to them, I would have said that.”
Brand said some other water districts in the Valley have tried to make presentations in Washington, D.C., about life on the border, on south side of the border wall.
“They are trying top make that presentation but they are not making much headway. At the federal level they are far removed from what is going on here. This should be a concern to everybody: the water districts sit right on the river, on the river side of the Border Wall. There has to be a way to keep them out of harm’s way, even with a wall.”
Brand also commented on reports that Texas Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick is prepared to build more Border Wall, should President Trump not get funding for it.
“Dan Patrick is talking about Texas going ahead and building the wall itself. That is a real big bite, in terms of the cost. That is going to take a lot of folks to get on board with that. All these people not from the Valley need to understand what the lay of the land is. But, I like the idea of Trump giving us the money because we will do it faster and cheaper. No doubt in my mind about that. Anyone in the construction business knows that.”
Brand has been very supportive of Border Patrol having a heavy presence on HCWID No. 3’s property.
“They can use our cameras, censors. They have access to our ramp and heliport and any part of our facility. We work with them in whatever way we can. Working on the river side of the Border Wall has to be defended. I am not ready to concede it to Mexico.”