Border Patrol halts building of 3 border wall
By ANABELLE GARAY Associated Press Writer © 2008 The Associated Press
Nov. 7, 2008

DALLAS — Homeland Security officials have decided to halt building three segments of the border fence in the Rio Grande Valley for this year, U.S. Rep. Henry Cuellar said late Friday.

Concerns over the structure leading to more debris in the river and increasing the potential for flooding caused U.S. Customs and Border Protection to defer plans. The hydrology issues of building in the river's flood plain had been highlighted by the International Boundary and Water Commission, Cuellar said.

The segments in Rio Grande City and Roma in Starr County and Los Ebanos in Hidalgo County add up to just over 14 miles, Cuellar said.

"I think the Valley will receive this as great news," he said.

The Department of Homeland Security planned to build "movable" fencing in the three areas, where communities abut the river. Los Ebanos, best-known for its historic hand-pulled ferry across the Rio Grande, would have been the most affected.

The engineering and hydrology concerns that surfaced led CBP to delay the project. However, the federal government still intends to build a fence, said CBP spokeswoman Angela de Rocha.

"We decided that the most prudent thing to do would be to continue to analyze the data before we move forward with the actual construction. So what we need to do is identify the most appropriate way to build," she said.

By stopping the project in those segments for now, Cuellar hopes it will allow for reassessment.

"We're hoping that this will allow us to work with the next president to find ... alternative methods for security," he said.

Cuellar, a member of the House Homeland Security Committee, said his office learned of CBP's decision Friday afternoon.

The No Border Wall Coalition praised the decision to stop construction, saying already-built portions of the project have destabilized flood control levees in South Texas.

"It is our hope that this will be made permanent by the new administration," the group said in a statement.

The government has built hundreds of miles of pedestrian fencing and vehicle barriers along the U.S.-Mexico border.

Congress had called for 670 miles of barriers along the U.S.-Mexico border to be completed by the end of the year. But recently, Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff said having all the fence sections under contract by the end of the year is more likely.