Written by Steve Taylor and Joey Gomez , Rio Grande Guardian
McALLEN, July 24 - Forty three members of Congress have sent a letter to Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano voicing concern over the “mounting” environmental and societal impact of the border wall and other security barriers.
The lawmakers have asked the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to cooperate with other applicable agencies to create and fund a “robust border-wide environmental monitoring program” and to provide “sufficient mitigation funding” for damage caused by border security infrastructure and enforcement activities along the Southwest border region.
“It is the Secretary’s responsibility to protect the homeland, not selectively destroy our environment,” said Rep. Raúl M. Grijalva, D-Ariz., one of the 43 members of Congress to sign the letter.
Grijalva, who convened a congressional hearing about the border wall at the University of Texas at Brownsville last year, said a review is necessary to “quantify, compensate for and avoid the negative consequences of border security infrastructure and operations.” He said border communities are “open to working on behalf of security - not a selective security, but rather one that includes habitat, national, border, and regional security.”
Grijalva described the hundreds of miles of border fencing constructed by DHS as a “massive federal project.” He said the project has had “serious consequences upon natural and cultural public resources, and has caused hardship for private land owners, whose lands have been condemned and livelihoods have been disrupted.”
Scott Nicol, a co-founder of the No Border Wall group, pointed out that U.S. Fish and Wildlife estimates that 60 percent of their National Wildlife Refuge tracts in south Texas will be impacted by the border wall. The South Texas tracts were established, in part, for the protection of endangered species such as the ocelot and jaguarondi.
“We are pleased to hear that 43 members of Congress are stepping up to the plate and attempting to correct some of the environmental damage that the border wall has done. If former Homeland Security Secretary Chertoff had not been given the power to waive all laws, this would have been addressed before wall construction began. Chertoff used the Real ID Act to waive the National Environmental Policy Act, along with 35 other federal laws, stopping the usual Environmental Impact Statement process in its tracks,” Nicol told the Guardian.
“Before the first bulldozer dug into the earth to clear a path for the wall, many of its impacts had been predicted. The Environmental Protection Agency warned that blasting in California's Otay Mountain Wilderness Area would dump thousands of tons of rock and sediment into the Tijuana River. Defenders of Wildlife issued a report on the Arizona wall's impacts on the ability of endangered Sonoran pronghorn to migrate. U.S. Fish and Wildlife told DHS that Hidalgo County's levee-border wall would be incompatible with the mission of the wildlife refuges that it would slice through.”
The letter from the members of Congress has this to say about the environmental impact of the border wall in south Texas:
“In south Texas, private land owners and agricultural interests have significant tracts of land that have been or will be isolated to the south of border fencing. Yet, DHS has only offered compensation for the exact footprint of the infrastructure – failure to recognize or compensate for fiscal losses of property value and accessibility caused by the construction of border fencing.”
Nicol said the monitoring and mitigation program that the members of Congress are calling for would be a “good first step towards bringing scientific rigor to an understanding of the wall's impacts.” However, he said the No Border Wall group is concerned that DHS will ignore its findings, “just as they ignored the Environmental Protection Agency, Defenders of Wildlife, and U.S. Fish and Wildlife.” :::MORE HERE:::