The first portion of the proposed U.S.-Mexico border wall will go up in southern Texas—and it’s set to go through the Santa Ana Wildlife Refuge.
The Texas Observer reported Friday (July 14) that private contractors and the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) have been preparing the site for at least six months. Construction can begin at the 2,088-acre refuge—home to 400 bird species and the endangered ocelot—as early as January 2018.
“This should be public information,” a federal official who remained anonymous told the Observer. “There shouldn’t be government officials meeting in secret just so they don’t have to deal with the backlash. The public has the right to know about these plans.”
An 18-foot levee wall would run almost three miles through the land, which sits under the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. This is why the Department of Homeland Security picked the refuge as the first construction site: No private landowners can push back. The Texas Observer reports that the proposed wall would “essentially destroy the refuge.” Along with the wall, construction would require a road, surveillance, cameras and light towers.
The reporter, Melissa del Bosque, witnessed workers preparing for construction July 14. Per her article:
On Friday afternoon, several workers were drilling into the existing earthen levee on the wildlife refuge and extracting soil samples to prepare for the construction. A security guard watching over the site asked me to leave when I started asking questions. Engineers from Michael Baker International, a global engineering firm, have been attending meetings on the project, according to the federal official.
This portion of President Donald Trump’s proposed border wall is one segment of the nearly 2,000 miles that span the U.S.-Mexico border. And much of that land is private. This will, inevitably, lead to lawsuits—which taxpayers must cover.
In 2006, former President George W. Bush attempted to seize land for a wall too. A CNN investigation earlier this year found that related litigation resulted in property owners losing their land and receiving insufficient compensation in each settled case. At least one-third of these suits continue today, per the Observer.
The president is debating placing solar panels on the wall to help cover its costs, but environmentalists aren’t pleased. The Center for Biological Diversity was the first to sue the administration for the wall and the impact it will have on the environment.