Border Wall Continues To Rack Up Environmental Damages, And Now Maybe Nets Too?

Endangered and protected Yaqui fish of the San Bernadino Refuge    Photo: National Fish & Wildlife Service

Several ponds at the San Bernardino National Wildlife Refuge went dry or had an extremely low water supply, according to documents obtained by two environmental non-profits.  Why?  Because the agency building President Trump’s border wall ignored repeated warnings that using the local groundwater to make cement for the wall would cause irreparable harm to the Refuge and to water supplies, The Washington Post reported.  But the contractors hired to “build that wall” pumped millions of gallons of groundwater from wells close to the Refuge anyway, putting at risk several species of Yaqui fish the Refuge protects, as well as hummingbirds, 75 species of butterflies, and bats.  Meanwhile, The Post also reported that the Army Corps of Engineers is looking to install a system of buoys and nets across the Rio Grande River in several locations where immigrants are known to try to cross into the U.S. from Mexico.

Why This Matters:  It seems the Trump administration believes it can do anything to build its wall — regardless of how extreme and what laws it might violate.  It’s unlikely that the environmental impacts of pumping out millions of gallons of groundwater in a desert or placing a net across the mighty Rio Grande were given a second thought.

Staff Warns That Groundwater Removals Would Cause A “Dire Emergency” for the Refuge

The Phoenix New Times also saw the emails, which the Center for Biological Diversity obtained under a Freedom of Information Act request. Josh Kelety of The New Times reported that the long-time manager of the Refuge wrote in an email to another staffer that the ongoing border wall construction is “hitting San Bernardino NWR [National Wildlife Reserve] in a major negative way.”  The Refuge manager also said that the had informed the Department of Homeland Security on “multiple occasions” and that the threat of “ground water depletion” at the Refuge due to the construction would create a “dire emergency.”  The Refuge is located along the U.S.-Mexico border, and The Post talked with Randy Serraglio of the Center for Biological Diversity, who described it as   “a pretty magical place,” and “an oasis, really,” which is “why the water withdrawals are so damaging.”

Buoys and Nets To Block Crossings of the Rio Grande

Nick Miroff of The Post reported that the Trump administration wants to install “floating border barriers” based on a solicitation for information from contractors about their ability to install such a system posted by the Army Corps.  The Post says the request is seeking to build a barrier that “must include a component (such as anti-dive mesh) that would impede incursions and/or breaching via underwater diving while minimizing debris buildup.”  Apparently the Trump administration is turning to this method of barrier because private landowners are unwilling to sell the government a right of way on their land to build the wall on the U.S. side of the River.  It seems unlikely that fish or other wildlife would be able to get through a mesh net as described in the solicitation.  The Post story does not specifically mention the possible harm to wildlife but the River ecosystem would certainly be impacted by such a barrier.


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