APNewsBreak: US, Mexico disagree over border fence

August 9, 2012 by
Categories: Mexico

Border FenceBy CHRISTOPHER SHERMAN, Associated Press

McALLEN, Texas (AP) — An agency that monitors the U.S.-Mexico boundary is agreeing to a U.S. proposal to build border fence segments in a South Texas flood plain, a move Mexico opposes.

The decision by the U.S. International Boundary and Water Commission comes despite objections from its Mexican counterpart. Mexico argues the fence would deflect floodwaters to its side of the Rio Grande and violate a bi-national treaty.

The Associated Press on Tuesday obtained a letter the commission sent to U.S. Customs and Border Protection noting it will not oppose the project. The commission says its analysis found that the fence proposed for three areas in South Texas would not be a significant obstruction to river waters. Half of the 14 miles proposed would be in the flood plain.

"When it comes right down to it, the scientific analysis is what we have to fall back on," John Merino, principal engineer with the U.S. commission, said Tuesday.

In his February letter, Merino wrote that after a thorough review, the agency concluded that the project "will not cause significant deflection or obstruction of the normal or flood flows of the Rio Grande" and is consistent with the treaty.

Jenny Burke, a spokeswoman for U.S. Customs and Border Protection, said that one of the segments, in Los Ebanos, is no longer considered necessary and more funding is needed to build the other two in Rio Grande City and Roma. Merino also pointed out that the government would have to bring back detailed construction drawings of the fence for approval before proceeding.

Still, the green light for a permanent fence made of spaced vertical steel tubes is a significant reversal for an agency that expressed concerns when the government was still proposing a "moveable" fence in 2008.

A 1970 treaty between the United States and Mexico called on both countries to prohibit the building of anything that "may cause deflection or obstruction of the normal flow of the river or of its flood flows."

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