By Bethany Blankley
Construction has begun on the first new border wall near the Donna-Rio Bravo International Bridge along the southern border with Mexico, according to information released by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.
The international bridge allows travel between the southern border city of Donna, Texas, and Rio Bravo, Tamaulipas, Mexico. The area is less congested than other points of entry along the southern border, which the city of Donna claims, allows the fastest crossings to and from Mexico.
The gate construction project includes the installation of automated border wall gates, associated equipment, and site improvements at current openings in the existing barrier in the U.S. Border Patrol’s (USBP) Rio Grande Valley (RGV) Sector, DHS reports. Once completed, a 150-foot border enforcement zone will be implemented around the wall.
The project is being built through a partnership among U.S. Customs and Border Protection, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, and Gibraltar-Caddell Joint Venture, which was awarded a $296 million contract July 31. It encompasses building 22 miles of noncontiguous border wall beginning east of Santa Ana, and 18 to 30-foot tall steel bollards filling the gaps within an existing wall built in 2008.
The gates will be located on the U.S. International Boundary and Water Commission levee at existing levee ramps. Once installed, they “will serve as a persistent impediment to smuggling organizations while still allowing river access for property owners, USBP, other local/state/federal officials, and local emergency responders,” according to the DHS statement.
The construction of the wall is being funded by CBP’s fiscal 2017 appropriation. It is not receiving funds through the National Emergency Declaration, 10 U.S.C § 284, 10 U.S.C. § 2808, or through Department of Defense appropriations.
Congress appropriated $1.375 billion for a South Texas border wall in the fiscal year 2019, but specifies that construction cannot take place in national park and refuge areas.
The construction underway will exclude areas inside of the Santa Ana National Wildlife Refuge, La Lomita Historical Park, Bentsen-Rio Grande Valley State Park, within or east of the Vista del Mar Ranch tract of the Lower Rio Grande Valley National Wildlife Refuge, and the National Butterfly Center.