Work on new border wall on hold while agency reviews water district’s concerns

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CBP vows to ensure maintenance crews continue to have access to American canal in South El Paso

Migrants walk together along the U.S./Mexican border wall as they look to turn themselves over to the U.S. Border Patrol as they seek asylum in the United States on June 04, 2019 in El Paso, Texas. In recent months, U.S. immigration officials have seen a surge in the number of asylum seekers arriving at the border. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

EL PASO, Texas (Border Report) – Construction of a new border wall north of the American canal in South El Paso has been temporarily halted, sources tell Border Report.

“We are in a holding pattern on the situation right now and we are working cooperatively with all agencies involved,” said Lori Kuczmanski, public affairs officer for the U.S. Section of the International Boundary and Water Commission (IBWC).

The planned 30-foot-tall barrier has prompted concern among officials from El Paso County Water District 1, who fear their crews will be unable to squeeze in heavy equipment needed to maintain the canal and its embankments. EPCDW General Manager Jesus Reyes also worries that, lacking maintenance, heavy rains may cause the canal to flood South El Paso neighborhoods.

Reyes recently made his concerns public and threatened to sue the federal agencies involved to stop construction. Representatives from the district, the IBWC, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and U.S. Customs and Border Protection met remotely on Tuesday afternoon to discuss the issue.

Kuczmanski said some documents need to be forwarded to the Corps of Engineers and meantime, “everything is at a standstill.” The Corps is supervising work by a contractor.

In an earlier statement to Border Report, CBP said the new three-mile barrier is part of the Fiscal Year 2020 border wall system projects and is being financed with Department of Defense counter-narcotics funds. The wall will go up in a sector that’s frequently used by migrant smugglers from Mexico and where several migrants have either drowned or been rescued by the U.S. Border Patrol in recent years.

CBP said it will work with the water district to ensure its maintenance crews continue to have access to the canal.

Water district officials had expressed puzzlement at the need for this second wall, given there’s already a 34-foot-tall steel bollard wall south of the American canal.

On Wednesday, Reyes said he sent a letter to the Army Corps of Engineers expressing his concerns and was told they would be looked into. One proposal includes tweaking the location of the new wall so as to not to impede access to water district or IBWC crews.

“They did respond, they said they don’t want to block us off from our operations and maintenance road, that they will get back to us by the end of the week with a different plan,” Reyes said.

The water official said he would be meeting with U.S. Rep. Veronica Escobar, D-Texas, later this week to discuss the issue.

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