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  1. #1
    Senior Member zeezil's Avatar
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    Border fence construction near Sasabe to start Monday

    Border fence construction near Sasabe to start Monday
    By Brady McCombs
    Arizona Daily Star
    http://www.azstarnet.com/sn/border/197790
    Tucson, Arizona | Published: 08.23.2007

    The construction of seven miles of primary border fence near Sasabe is set to begin Monday without notice to the public about the project and no public comment period.

    The bollard fence — 12-foot-high steel posts set 4- inches apart that form an impenetrable barrier for humans and large mammals but allow water and small animals to pass through — is expected to be completed by Christmas, said Border Patrol spokeswoman Dove Haber, with the agency's Tucson Sector headquarters. It will be built by Phoenix-based Sundt Construction Inc., which was awarded a $31.5 million contract from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

    The fencing, the first primary, or pedestrian fence, to be built on a 240-mile stretch of rural border between Nogales and San Luis, is the first new stretch built in the Tucson Sector with funds from the Secure Fence Act of 2006. The agency has so far used those funds to extend existing primary fencing at Naco and Douglas.

    The construction project also marks the first new stretch of primary fence built in the Tucson Sector since the mid-1990s, when the agency built fences in Naco and Douglas.

    Federal officials issued a final environmental assessment for the project in July with a finding of "no significant impact" without publishing a draft or allowing public commentary.

    That's a problem, say environmentalists like Matt Clark, Southwest representative for Defenders of Wildlife, who said the barrier will cut off dispersal corridors and potential habitat for jaguars, potentially closing the door on the animal's recovery in the U.S. It would also be harmful for pgymy owls and could damage other nearby wildlife habitats if the fence pushes illegal traffic and the law enforcement activity into surrounding areas, he said.

    Although the fence isn't on the Tohono O'odham Nation, tribal Chairman Ned Norris Jr. also expressed concern that the project will adversely affect five of the tribe's cultural sites lying in the path of the fence and that the tribe was not properly consulted.

    Border Patrol officials in the Tucson Sector said Monday they couldn't comment about why there was no public comment period or concerns about wildlife or cultural sites.

    The agency said the Sasabe area was chosen for the barrier to help slow human and drug smuggling traffic through one of the busiest corridors in the nation, Haber said. There are already nine high-tech camera towers in the area as part of the SBInet Project 28. They aren't yet operational because of software problems that are being worked on.

    Mitch Ellis, Buenos Aires National Wildlife Refuge manager, said the fencing would allow the refuge to reopen 3,500 acres along a five-mile stretch of the border that has been closed to the public for safety reasons since Oct. 3.

    For environmentalists and some community members, the fast-tracked approval process for the project is troubling.

    Clark said the lack of public comment period on the environmental assessment is legal but doesn't follow the intent of the National Environmental Policy Act, which requires federal agencies to consider environmental impacts of their proposed actions.

    Wildlife manager Ellis said he also considers the lack of notice and comment opportunity odd.
    "To not allow that is not really doing justice to the NEPA process," Ellis said. "When the EA (environmental assessment) came out with a zero-day comment period, it caught a lot of people's attention."
    The fence will help slow some illegal traffic on the refuge and possibly allow damaged habitat to regrow along the border, but it won't solve the problem, Ellis said.
    "If we want to gain operational control of small areas, it will work," Ellis said. "But is it realistic to fence off 2,000 miles of border? No, nobody is even suggesting that."

    All the fencing — except for three-fourths of a mile in the middle that is on the Buenos Aires Refuge — will be constructed on a 60-foot easement that belongs to the federal government. For the stretch on the refuge, the government needs permission from Ellis, which he said he intends to grant but not until requirements are met.

    "I'm not going to give them the permit until they go through the process and do it right," said Ellis, citing a pending biological opinion about jaguars and a cultural resource review about Tohono O'odham sites.
    Tribal Chairman Norris said Border Patrol officials haven't handled the cultural assessment properly. He said their plan to start Monday is ill-advised and could be cause for possible prosecution under the Archaeological Resource Protection Act.

    "That's really an unfortunate decision because as far as the Nation is concerned there are archaeological issues we are very concerned about," Norris said. "We don't believe the notices have been properly issued."
    The fence will stretch from 4.5 miles east of Sasabe to 2.5 miles west of the port of entry there, according to the environmental assessment. The bollards are hollow steel tubes sunk 4 feet in the ground and standing 12 feet high, filled with concrete, Haber said.

    The decision to contract the work to Sundt Construction Inc., which has an office in Tucson, was made because the National Guard is being used to its maximum, and the agency did not want to pull agents off patrol, said Haber. The use of a private company breaks from agency tradition of using Border Patrol agents, National Guard soldiers or the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to build fences.



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  2. #2
    Senior Member Populist's Avatar
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    Just build the da*n fence, all 854 miles of it, NOW.
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  3. #3
    Administrator Jean's Avatar
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    7 miles of fence!

    Guess it's better than nothing but near nothing.
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  4. #4
    MW
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    Senior Member MW's Avatar
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    Mitch Ellis, Buenos Aires National Wildlife Refuge manager, said the fencing would allow the refuge to reopen 3,500 acres along a five-mile stretch of the border that has been closed to the public for safety reasons since Oct. 3.
    Hmmm........obviously someone thinks physical fences work!

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