Ronald Vitiello, Deputy Commissioner with U.S. Customs and Border Protection, has announced that work on an existing border wall in New Mexico will begin in the next couple of weeks.
“We’re on track to replace 20 miles of primary vehicle barrier in Santa Teresa, New Mexico,” said Vitiello in announcing a handful of additional border wall projects also planned for California and Texas.
Vitiello’s announcement comes as a host of environmental groups have joined forces in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia to stop the New Mexico project, which they contend could prove hazardous to area gray wolves, bighorn sheep, ring-tailed cats, and jaguars.
A $73 million contract was awarded in January to Barnard Construction of Bozeman, Montana, to replace the wall stretching from the Santa Teresa Port of Entry to Border Monument West.
“The New Mexico Border Wall Project will have numerous negative impacts on the wildlife, plants, and the sensitive biological habitats on or near the proposed site of the project,” contends the litigants in the suits, which include the Las Cruces-based Southwest Environment Center and the Center for Biological Diversity of Tucson.
As proposed, the new wall will be made of bollard fencing supported by thick vertical posts. Conservationists have argued that while more porous vehicle barriers allow for some wildlife crossing, the bollard fencing would close it off altogether.
Noting that work has already started on a two-mile stretch of border fencing in Calexico, California, as well as four miles of new wall in El Paso, Vitiello added, “The other projects still need some design work and the bids will go out for that.”
“They are going to happen this year,” Vitiello said in reference to the additional projects, although he acknowledged that continued wall work will depend on “other factors as far as the design and acquisition of land.”
By Garry Boulard
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