Hidalgo County residents respond to pending border wall project

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HIDALGO COUNTY, Texas (Border Report) — The existing border wall in the city of Hidalgo isn’t on the exact U.S.-Mexico border, and since 2009, it’s crossed down the Hidalgo Pumphouse World Birding Center.

“It basically put a wall right down the middle of what we figured would be a beautiful hike and bike trail for people,” said John David Franz, the former mayor of Hidalgo.

The wall was approved through the Secure Fence Act of 2006. According to a 2008 article from The New York Times, the Department of Homeland Security issued two waivers that wouldn’t require environmental reviews before the barriers were built. The waivers covered more than 400 miles of the border from California to Texas. A separate 22-mile stretch was also approved in Hidalgo County.

The fence in this part of Texas is 18 feet tall and will soon be even taller. That’s because on Monday, U.S. Customs and Border Protection announced its plans to build 65 miles of border wall in South Texas, 11 of which are expected in Hidalgo.

Ken Ortner, who lives near where the new wall will be built, says some homeowners and residents are concerned about what will happen to their property.

“Some of them obviously don’t like it because some of these people kind of front on the river and then they’ve got this thing that is going to go through,” Ortner said. “Then there are people who say we need that wall.”

The three contracts for construction within the Border Patrol’s Rio Grande Valley Sector will apply to Hidalgo, Starr and Cameron counties. CBP joined the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to award these contracts.

The new border wall is estimated to cost anywhere from $385 million to $813 million. A news release from CBP states the three projects aren’t a part of President Donald Trump’s National Emergency Declaration related to the southern border. Funding also does not come from the Department of Defense. The new border wall will depend on whether the land will be available in areas where there aren’t current barriers in place.

CBP also said the projects are not going to take place at 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; or the National Butterfly Center.

“These projects will improve the RGV Sector’s ability to impede and deny illegal border crossings and the drug and human smuggling activities of transnational criminal organizations,” the CBP news release states.

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